A ministry of presence
“….they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.”
At its core, I see our work as a ministry of presence: to take the time to slow down, to listen, and to understand what is taking place for the person before us at that given moment. They are not a number or just another case like the one we saw earlier in the day or even earlier in the week. That person is unique and requires our full attention.
Assisting with the needs presented to us is absolutely a blessing and a goal, but we know that it’s not always attainable. Yet let’s not despair or forget the impact and importance of being a witness, walking with them, and entering into their story so they know that they are heard and that someone cares.
Others in the community may do “whatever they please” by their judgements and actions toward those seeking help. But we are called to avoid the far-too-easy trap of categorizing them into similar needs and experiences, and truly “recognize” them as individuals. It is a holy moment when we do, and I pray that we always remember our ministry of presence before we jump into our ministry of service.
Michael Smith is Chief Program Officer of Catholic Charities Maine and a member of the CCUSA Management and Administration and Aging Steering Committees.