Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 4, 2005
Cousins find same spiritual path
Pastoral ministry need gentle communications
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Marian Izzo and Mona Patterson are first cousins who were never close growing up. They lived in Rolling Hills near Brooks, but they usually kept to their own friends and families. Izzo moved away while Patterson stayed and raised her family.
Little told them they would eventually become spiritual friends. They did not even know they had applied for the same pastoral assistant position.
But since April, they have shared pastoral duties at St. Mary's Parish in Brooks. And together they just completed a three-week course Pastoral Institute 2005: The Parish of the 21st Century held June 6-24 at Newman Theological College. It was a session on parish pastoral life and the first year of a proposed three-year course aimed at pastoral formation.
Opening of hearts
But even before taking the course, working together broke down barriers and opened their hearts to each other and everyone they meet.
"In the past year, experiences in my life called me to examine where my life had the deepest meaning and what I wanted to do," Izzo told the WCR
"After my mother's death a year ago, I recalled I have had a very blessed life. And caring for her, as I did for 18 months, was an additional blessing. I felt I needed to take some steps, but I didn't know what they were. I did a lot of praying and reading.
"I waited to the last day to apply for the position at St. Mary's because I was unsure. I had led a structured corporate life and my faith life was always private."
Izzo went for the interview with Father Vincent Tuan Nhat Ha and as she was leaving, she saw her cousin waiting her turn.
Patterson said they both listened to the call at the same time.
"God keeps putting people in my path. He has given me many signs that I am alright to open my arms to them," she said.
"I know I had been closing the door when God called because I always felt something was missing. I think, in my heart of hearts, I knew that I would be involved with the Church some day."
"There have been so many affirmations that Mona and I had always been walking this pathway together. The different strengths we bring has been wonderful," Izzo said.
The college will hold more sessions each June and those who completed all nine sessions over the three-year period will receive a certificate.
"I have attended many seminars about motivation or personal growth, but I don't think I ever felt as safe and comfortable as I did in that environment," Izzo said. "It was not easy for our small group to talk as we did. We had trust." People told things they had rarely spoken of. "It was coming from their hearts."
The college offered Transforming Good Parishes into Great Parishes June 6-10 and Forging the Links Among Home/School/Parish in Turbulent Times the following week.
The third session, titled Companions on the Journey: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship, presented guest speakers Dr. Kathleen Brown and David Orr, from Washington, D.C.
Brown is director of formation for ministry at the Washington Theological Union. She has worked in parish and campus settings in RCIA, Scripture study and adult faith formation.
"It takes humility to regard one another as more important than ourselves," Brown said.
"Spiritual friendship is the union of hearts and minds, united in one purpose. There is joy in doing this; in the love, spirit and energy."
It was her work with RCIA in her home parish where she met Orr, who converted to Catholicism. Orr is a noted writer and poet.
Orr described pastoral work as a crucifix. There is the horizontal component reaching out to others and the vertical dimension connecting heaven and earth. At the centre, where we come together, is the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
"Spiritual companionship and friendship among Christians is the building of community," he said. "It is the real power of the spirit at work reaching out to a broader community befriending one another while maintaining friendship and communication with God."
As the week progressed, Brown and Orr talked about affirmation, freedom, humility and befriending ourselves. What occurred was that the eight people who attended the third week, went to deep places within themselves and shared with each other, Orr said.
"Humility does not mean not acknowledging ourselves. Sometimes it means affirming we are Christians made in the image of God and that we have gifts and talents inside ourselves to offer. It does mean treating others with a selfless respect."
Communicating in a loving and gentle manner is key to effective pastoral ministry, Orr said. People are often mirrors who help us see into ourselves.
"To share their stories takes a trust that grew over the week," Brown said. "It was wonderful to watch it happen."
Some work with the RCIA and some visit the sick. Others teach Sunday morning liturgy to children. Whatever the ministry, in some way pastoral servants journey with someone else in faith, Orr said.
And Izzo and Patterson are a living testament to that.
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