Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 10, 2004
Listening with heart and soul
Beaumont parish helps struggling souls slog through life's passages
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Albertine Porter said when her daughter Michelle died of cancer a year ago, she didn't get the kind of support she needed to deal with her grieving. Then she realized others in the community experiencing loss were being left to grieve on their own as well.
"There was something missing," she recalls. "People didn't know what to do."
Porter decided she had to do something to change the culture of the parish. In Calgary, where she lived before moving to Beaumont nearly three years ago, she had been trained to deal with situations like hers and had served as a pastoral worker for 15 years.
She took action and got an attentive ear from Adrien Bussiere, chair of St. Vital Parish Pastoral Council. He had also begun to realize the parish lacked pastoral care skills to deal with an aging population on the one hand and the problems of the youth on the other.
St. Vital Parish, a 700-family parish, decided to train parishioners on the ins and outs of pastoral care and brought in Helen Gledhow, a bereavement counsellor and pastoral care facilitator with St. Theresa Parish, to do the training. Other parishes in the Black Gold Region of the archdiocese became involved and in October some 40 parishioners from Beaumont, Nisku and Leduc graduated from Gledhow's seven-week course called Parish Ministry of Care.
The graduates, 24 from Beaumont included, were commissioned as pastoral care workers by the Edmonton Archdiocese May 5 at St. Vital Parish. Sister Mary-Laurene Bradley, the archdio-cese's official pastoral care facilitator, did the commissioning.
The course prepared the group well to assist people dealing with death, divorce, suicide, chronic illnesses and even unemployment.
Since their graduation, the pastoral workers have being ministering regularly at the University and Grey Nuns hospitals and at a 55-Plus-condo complex in Beaumont. They also visit the sick, the elderly and the grieving in their own homes.
Porter said the pastoral workers have assisted a number of people in the community in the past five months and some have established solid friendships with those they have helped. "People are starting to call us now," she said.
"I'm quite involved with the pastoral care (ministry) because I have found it has enriched me as a person and I can reach out and help others when they need some help," said Bussiere, noting that the skills he gained through the course also helped him deal with the death of his mother.
Program graduates meet once a month to share their experience and to sharpen their skills.
They plan to continue sharpening the skills through speakers and seminars and plan to offer the Parish Ministry of Care program every two years.
"All parishes should have pastoral care, without any exception because it's really beneficial for everybody," said Porter, who participated in the program despite having pastoral care and bereavement certificates from the Diocese of Calgary.
The goal of the program is to prepare people to minister to one another, said Gledhow, who has being facilitating pastoral care workshops at St. Theresa for nine years. She hopes the course provided participants with tools to develop their listening skills so they can become "listening centres for people" in the community.
Learning to listen
"Listening was the most needed skill in the (Beaumont) parish," she noted. The program also offered sessions on death and dying, bereavement, forgiveness, reconciliation, the Eucharist and other sacraments.
"I feel that I learned to listen," said Bussiere. "
John MacDonald, the archdiocese's family life and health care officer, said parishioners at St. Vital Parish are right on the mark because Archbishop Thomas Collins wants as many people as possible to gain pastoral care skills to make sure "everybody in the archdiocese gets good pastoral care."
The archdiocese has being offering training for a couple of years now out of a concern that many people are failing to receive pastoral care.
Those who graduated from the program at St. Vital are now "bringing the love of Christ into people's homes," MacDonald said.