By Melody Simmons
Special to the Review
One thing Sean Lee has learned in his short time as a lay minister to the sick and grieving is the essence of listening.
“Sometimes the best comment is no comment,” Lee said. “God is in the details. And every situation is different. I always want to hear before I actually speak.”
Lee spoke Oct. 3, during a ministry of care workshop at St. Agnes Hospital, on Baltimore’s west side, titled “You Visited Me.” The day-long gathering drew clergy, lay people, hospital workers and grief counselors to discuss and learn about pastoral care, active listening, bereavement and grief support and spirituality.
For Lee and four other parishioners from the bereavement committee at St. Bernadine Church on Edmondson Avenue, the day was invaluable for the outreach work they do on a regular basis.
“A lot of people are in need,” said Lee, a 24-year employee of the Baltimore County School System’s Office of Operations who finds time to be a lay minister. “When someone has a loved one who has passed away, a lot of times they don’t have that support system. We provide that system.”
Sometimes that means offering support years – even decades – after a loss, Lee said. Individuals and families grieve in different ways, often in private, and many struggle on their own.
Learning better skills to help them is part of an important outreach, said Anne Buening, vice president of mission integration at St. Agnes Healthcare.
She helped to manage the event, co-hosted by the Spiritual Care office of St. Agnes Hospital; the Archdiocese of Baltimore; and representatives from Catholic Charities of Baltimore’s Jenkins Senior Living Campus in Halethorpe: St. Elizabeth Rehabilitation And Nursing Center, St. Ann Medical Day Services and Caritas House Assisted Living;as a way to boost confidence in the outreach.
Buening said it was designed in direct response to the pastoral letter of Archbishop William E. Lori titled “A Bright Light Visible: Lighting the Path to Missionary Discipleship,” which challenged Catholics in the Baltimore metropolitan area to live their faith more fully by looking inward in prayer to help others.
“Our hope and dream is that they take what they learn here out into the community and they evangelize in this very special way,” Buening said. “At the same time, that they bring God to the bedside. When people are sick, it’s often a time when they consider their time with God anew and so we hope the skills that we can help them with and teachings here can help them minister in an effective, non-judgmental way.”
Besides Buening, some of the presenters at the event included the Rev. Charline Berry, chaplain of St. Agnes Hospital; Daughter of Charity Sister Eileen Davis,Carol Zieba, coordinator of pastoral care at the Jenkins Senior Living Campus and Father Vincent Arisukwu, associate pastor of Holy Trinity in Glen Burnie.
Working at a Catholic health institution, Buening said she sees daily how important a spiritual life is in the healing process and in healthcare in general.
“When you visit the sick, it is frightening and it takes courage,” Buening said. “But if you hear that call, we’re daring people to dream to imagine that they have the courage, the strength and the wisdom to offer this non-judgmental love.”