Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"HOSPITAL MINISTRY" by Kathi Scarpace

Our parish boundaries include a hospital. Both the priests and parishioners visit the hospital on a regular basis. The priests take turns going once a week and parishioners visit the other days.

The hospital and the parish have a good working relationship. Parishioners wear hospital badges that identify them as eucharistic ministers. Each parishioner has the same day every month, e.g., the third Thursday of the month.

About twice a year I ask for volunteers through a bulletin announcement to replace any volunteers who can no longer continue. Many hospital eucharistic ministers have served for years.

I go myself as a substitute. I am always amazed at the variety of people that I meet. Because the hospital serves a large geographic region, I very rarely meet the same person twice.

On one occasion, this was not the case.

One day in May, I visited a woman who was quite upset. I did not ask her what her illness was, but whatever it was, it upset her. She was very agitated and even a little angry. Whenever I visit I ask people what they would like to pray for and I sometimes ask them to pray for an intention of mine. I asked this woman to pray for my brother who was in the hospital. We prayed together, and I gave her communion.

As it turned out, I was back at the hospital to visit about two weeks later. I visited the same woman again. To my surprise, she was a different person. She was calm and peaceful.

Because I remembered her as so upset, I asked her what made the difference. She told me that one evening she had a long talk with God. She came to terms with her illness and the limitations that would be hers. From that point forward, she was at peace and looking forward to her life.

And, by the way, she asked, how was my brother?

I was amazed that she even remembered our conversation. Somehow she was able to hear my need in the midst of hers. I thanked her and let her know how much I appreciated her prayers and also how much I appreciated her telling me about her journey to peace and acceptance.

I have visited many sick and dying people. The ideal for life is to be both well and at peace. The second choice, from my perspective, is to be ill and at peace. Without peace, life is unbearable. It may take effort to get to a place of peace, but I know that it is worth it.

I am grateful to the woman who showed me the way.

I can see why parishioners value their hospital ministry; it is a two-way street.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

PROUD TO BE CATHOLIC by Kathi Scarpace

A few months ago we had a series of presentations and activities in my parish. One of the evenings was, “Proud To Be Catholic.” The speaker was a well-known priest who was knowledgeable in apologetics and the Scriptures.

The evening was prompted by the experience of some parishioners, including young people, who found themselves on the defensive end of conversations with fellow Christians. The priest was very engaging, and people responded well to his presentation.

The topic was interesting to me. It made me think about why I was proud to be Catholic. There are many things to be proud of: our apostolic succession, the gifts of the sacraments, Sacred Tradition, the great theologians and saints throughout history, our liturgies, the great churches we have built, the great art we have sponsored, the tradition of spirituality and so on.

I am proud of all these things and happy I am a Catholic.

These things actually did not come to mind when I started to think about why I am proud to be a Catholic. What I thought of was a little church in a small town in South Carolina.

This town was the county seat of what was the third-poorest county in the United States. I was a parishioner in the mid-seventies, relatively soon after school integration. (In fact the local hardware store still had signs “White” and “Colored” in their inventory.)

I am proud to be Catholic because that little church was integrated. Both white families and African-American families worshiped together easily each Sunday. No other church in the community did so (although the “black churches” always welcomed whites).

Sunday after Sunday, we would stand visiting after Mass in front of church, a visible sign of the reign of God.

The next thing that came to mind about being proud to be Catholic happened this summer. Our parish serves a meal to hungry people in one of the local parks about once a month.

I was sitting at the table eating when I overheard one homeless person say to another, “Sacred Heart Church always helps you if you need it.” The woman was not speaking to me nor do I believe she knew that the meal was being served by that parish. She was just commenting on the state of help in the community.

I felt proud again to be Catholic.

There are a lot of great things about being a Catholic.

What makes you proud?

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in www.ParishWorld.net, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)

Saturday, September 09, 2006


By Kathi Scarpace

Pastoral ministry is often challenging. There is the actual work of ministering to people in need, coordinating and supporting the various parish groups, envisioning the direction of the parish, and keeping up with the day-to-day tasks of administration.

In addition, lay pastoral ministers do this work while balancing the needs of their families and themselves.

To me, ministry sometimes feels like walking on a tightrope. One step forward; balance again. Wait. Feel the rope. Don’t look down, keep my eyes on the goal.

In order to keep things in balance and in proportion, my spiritual director is a valuable asset. When a breeze blows or when the next step is a little difficult to take, my spiritual director can help steady and assure me just as a balance pole helps a tightrope walker.

I have had different spiritual directors over the course of my ministerial life. The kind of director I like is someone who I can trust, who is insightful, and who challenges me to look at myself.

I visit my current director once a month. I bring my prayer life, the state of my health (mental and physical), and any decisions I am considering to the meetings I have. By visiting my director monthly, I find myself accountable for my spiritual life.

I try to be as honest as possible with my director. For example, if I am not praying regularly, I say that. If I am angry about something important, I address my anger. My director helps me to listen to what God is saying to me.

If you don’t have a spiritual mentor or don’t know where to find one, perhaps your diocese has a listing of recommended people. Often local monasteries and retreat houses offer spiritual direction.

Because of the level of the communication, it is important to find someone trustworthy, who listens well, and whose experience of God and church is compatible with your own. In choosing someone, I have found that being simple about it helps.

God has led me to the right person each time.

Ministry is not easy. The church offers help through spiritual direction. Consider taking advantage of this help.

I think it is a blessing.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in www.ParishWorld.net, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Kathi Scarpace

By Kathi Scarpace

My new parish is composed of two parishes that served the same city. One parish was on one side of the highway, the other on the opposite. One parish typically had more Spanish-speaking parishioners, the other more English-speaking.

Originally, there was only one parish. In the 1930s the English-speaking church, which had a school, forced out the Spanish-speaking children. As a result of this hateful action, the second parish was formed and thrived for the past 69 years.

Now because of the priest shortage, the influx of families seeking affordable housing and other issues, the two parishes will once again be one. You can imagine all the issues and feelings as the two communities with this history now find themselves face to face, working together. (The new church has yet to be built.)

The two parish councils came together this past week. Some councilors were able to say how angry they felt when learning of the unification. Others expressed enthusiasm and hope for the future. All agreed that good leadership and healing would be needed for the strong and good life of this new parish to take hold and flourish.

Prejudice in its many forms is difficult to face in civil life. Within the church community, it is even more difficult. Admitting the wrongs of the past, apologizing for them and asking forgiveness is one task. Welcoming and forgiving those who have harmed us is another. The new parish will be founded, not on glory and success, but on pain, mercy, and forgiveness.

The early church felt the pain of division, too. How was the church community to accept Gentiles who believed in Christ? Did these Gentiles need to follow Jewish law? It was not all that clear, even with the leaders.
Paul writes an impassioned account in Galatians: “But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party” (2:11-12).”

Because of Paul’s willingness to face the division he saw in the church, he was able to give us the wonderful gift of these words: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for your are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:27-28).

There is neither north nor south, legal nor illegal, Spanish-speaking nor English-speaking, affluent or poor.

We are all one in Christ.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in www.ParishWorld.net, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)