ENDWELL — Over 100 people from more than a dozen parishes gathered for the second annual Parish Visitors Conference in Endwell Sept. 24. The conference was organized by the Pastoral Coordinating Committee, made up of the parish coordinators of pastoral care visitations in Western Broome County. The Coordinating Committee was formed several years ago by Sister Anisia Muthoni, LSOSF, of St. Anthony’s Parish in Endicott.
Parish visitors and Eucharistic ministers are invited each year to take part in the conference, which includes a day of education and sharing experiences in ministry for people who are homebound, in the hospital, or in nursing homes.
This year the group invited Sister Brigid O’Mahoney, MHJ, a theology teacher and scripture study leader, to speak at the conference. Sister Brigid said parish visitors bring Jesus’ presence to others.
“Christ is expressing himself through us,” she said. “Jesus had wanted to make himself present through us.”
Sister Brigid described a visit she made to a man who had cancer. She told of how the man’s wife and mother were having a difficult time understanding what he needed. She said something told her to say, “Rub his feet.”
When the man’s mother heard that, she recalled how he would often ask to have his feet rubbed as a little boy. Later, when they did that, the man’s body relaxed. They continued to rub his feet as he communicated he wanted that, up until his death.
“When you visit the sick, you are visiting as Christ himself,” Sister Brigid said. “You are walking in the grace and ministry of the Good Shepherd.”
She said pastoral ministers are born with gifts needed to carry out their visits. “Discover and develop natural gifts,” she said.
Sister Brigid acknowledged that pastoral care visits can be difficult, but that all ministry is a function of grace. She said if someone is feeling overwhelmed in the ministry, they should ask for grace to do the things that are needed.
“We are Christ in fleshed to those we visit. We are becoming more like Christ,” she said. “We are comforting the afflicted where other ministries afflict the comfortable.”
Sister Brigid stressed the importance of bringing Communion to people who are sick, at home or in a nursing home or hospital because it connects them with the church family. She urged parish visitors to share the Sunday Gospel and other readings with those they visit.
Sister Brigid said visits often bring up difficult questions, which pastoral care ministers may find hard to answer. She mentioned questions like “Why did God do this to me?” or “Why did God let this happen to me?”
“I do not believe that sickness comes from God. He came and he healed everyone who came to him,” she said. “When sin entered the picture, everything broke. Sickness comes from a broken world. God can take suffering and make something from it.”
Sister Brigid said pastoral ministers can help as a person transitions from “life to life.” She said they should remind those they visit that the first person they will encounter is Jesus. “They meet love,” she said. “Convey there is hope, love.”
People interested in assisting with pastoral care visits to people who are homebound, in the hospital or in nursing homes should contact their parish office. Email Sister Anisia Muthoni at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on parish visitations.