HELPING EACH OTHER: Sister Charlene Hockers, right, might be retired from parish ministry but she remains active at St. Francis Convent by driving Sisters to appointments and running errands. Sister Mary Jean Gauthier, left, receives errand assistance from Sister Charlene and she helps friends and family through her telephone ministry.(Renae Bauer photo)
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”-- Acts 20:35
by Renae Bauer
published November 2017
One Sister helps another put on a pair of socks, while someone else calls a homebound friend who is lonely. What one person can’t do, someone else can. Each gift complements the other.
This ministry of presence -- being available to the needs of others -- is one of the highest marks of our Catholic Christian faith. After all, Jesus instructs us to love God and others; it’s a love Jesus modeled by being present to all, says Sister Charlene Hockers.
She and Sister Mary Jean Gauthier demonstrate how our many and varied gifts make the body of Christ whole. Sister Charlene does shopping for Sister Mary Jean, who no longer drives, and Sister Mary Jean telephones people who are lonely or in crisis.
Driving people to appointments and helping with daily living needs comes easily to Sister Charlene probably because of her experience. A De Pere native, Sister Charlene regularly took her mom to church and helped care for the family home while serving as director of religious education and care ministry at St. Mary Parish in her hometown.
“Being available is my way of being present to others,” says Sister Charlene, who helps in about a half dozen areas at the motherhouse. She volunteers for overnight care, reads emails to a Sister with visual diminishment, volunteers for liturgical roles, helps in the dining room and kitchen, and occasionally fills in as receptionist.
Many parts, all one body
And while she is busy, Sister Charlene cannot (and does not want to) do it all. She’s aware of Sister Mary Jean’s outreach to people who are hurting, who are in need of a listening ear and a promise of prayers. “I don’t think I’d be so good at it,” says Sister Charlene. She admires Sister Mary Jean’s decades-long ministry of writing to inmates, talking with their families and praying for people who feel hopeless because of loneliness, poverty or a loved one’s drug addiction.
“There’s one woman I’ve been talking to for more than 10 years,” says Sister Mary Jean. “She calls me her little angel without wings and says I don’t know how much it means to her to hear my voice. People ask for prayers and appreciate someone listening.”
Finding the spiritual and physical energy to be present to others day in and day out requires some selfcare. For Sister Joanne Kinjerski, that means eating properly, resting when tired and tending to one’s prayer life. “I get up in the morning and call to mind our Lord,” she says. After private prayers and morning Mass in the motherhouse chapel, Sister Joanne gives about half her day to driving Sisters to and from appointments and running errands. And waiting. Some days, there is a lot of waiting. “I do a lot of praying in the car,” she says with a smile, adding that she frequently prays the rosary and the stations of the cross. No book, no notes. She has both prayers memorized.
When she returns home, Sister Joanne hems and mends garments for other Sisters. She’s happy to help, she says, especially now that she’s “retired” from her laundry and gardening duties and from making rosaries from rose petals (which was rewarding but time-consuming). And, just as her day started with prayer, so it concludes: “I ask our Lord to be with me again tomorrow.”
Finding strength for another day
Daily Mass and private prayers give Sister Charlene and Sister Mary Jean the strength to conduct their ministries. They add that the gratitude expressed by the people they help and the opportunities for social interaction (meals and evening card games) also help them to serve again the next day.
Perhaps, most critical to their ministry is their gratitude, for a grateful heart can do amazing things: “The Lord has been good to me,” says Sister Joanne. In return, she can practice the ministry of presence, which for her means “to be open, to recognize, to acknowledge and accept the person in your presence; offer a smile.”
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