Six years ago, Stephen Ministry became a major apostolate at Holy Family Parish in Sewell. Fifty-six men and women have been offering their time and talent to assist those who need to share their problems with someone who cares and someone they trust.
These Stephen Ministers have been trained in basic counseling. Their initial training consists of 20 sessions and more than 50 hours. They now listen attentively to care-receivers who are facing some crisis in life, for example: illness, death of a loved one, divorce, job loss or financial setback. This lay care giving ministry supplements the pastoral care offered by priests and deacons on a one-on-one basis.
This confidential care giving and care-receiving relationship is usually conducted during weekly visits and may last a few months or a few years. Our ministers offer their time and talent to both the parish members of Holy Family and to the surrounding communities. The Stephen Ministers also attend peer supervision and attend continuing education meetings that give new insights on specific care-giving situations or reviews one of the topics that pertain to our ministry.
Reflecting on the words of Pope Francis, the Stephen Ministers of Holy Family opened a new chapter in the life of this apostolate. They listened to our pope proclaim: “We may think of the poor simply as the beneficiaries of our occasional volunteer work, or of impromptu acts of generosity that appease our conscience. However good and useful such acts may be for making us sensitive to people’s needs and the injustices that are often their cause, they ought to lead to a true encounter with the poor and a sharing that becomes a way of life. We are called, then, to draw near to the poor, to encounter them, to meet their gaze, to embrace them and to let them feel the warmth of love that breaks through their solitude.”
A change in thinking became a proposal of action — that we should go beyond our one-on-one service and go outside of our area to serve those who are alone and unwanted and become aware of the poor and their needs.
So, at the November in-service meeting of all Stephen ministers, one section was set up with personal items and another with bread, lunch meat and cheese. In collaboration with the Cathedral Pantry located on the grounds of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Camden, the Stephen Ministers made up about 120 packages with many toiletry items, collected warm clothing for the hungry and homeless and made about 240 sandwiches. These items were taken to Camden the next day. The sandwiches were served and went quickly as the Cathedral Pantry serves about 350 patrons each day. It was noted by one of the volunteers that the clothing give-away was like a bargain sale at Filene’s basement. The personal items will be offered as Christmas gifts to those who are served at the Pantry.
This new idea of serving all aspects of the human person will continue to be a priority for one of the Stephen Ministry in-service meetings each year at Holy Family Parish. As a lay caring ministry, the motto of the Stephen Ministry is: Christ caring for people, through people.
Ginny Licata is a Stephen Minister at Holy Family Parish in Sewell.
For information about the Stephen Ministry program of the Diocese of Camden, please contact Father Sanjai Devis, director of Stephen Ministry at Sanjai.email@example.com