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Learning to be present


“Just be with some people.”

Those were Elaine’s words of wisdom to me last week at Calvary Women’s Services. She oversees my work as part of the LEAP program there, and those five words reminded me of my purpose for that afternoon.

Ministry of presence is something I am still trying to grasp—even though I’ve been mulling it over for a year and a half now. It is beautifully simple in concept, but always difficult for me to execute because it goes against my ingrained desire to want to do something for other people. I took Elaine’s reminder to heart and focused on just being with the residents who would spend the next hour or so with me working on resumes and other basic computer skills.

It started with Anne* who wanted to do some research and find some people she used to know. She wasn’t familiar with the internet or computers, so we researched together. So as we went over basic computer skills and search engines, she told me about her life and I listened.

While Patricia* was practicing her typing, she told me about her belief that God will abide, because she’s seen in it her own life. She also talked about her plans for after she leaves Calvary—a steady job and a solid place to live.

Then Tracy* and I worked on her resume, and as we went through each job she told me about what she did, but also what she liked about it. She shared pieces of her story with me over a computer keyboard—and for that I am grateful.

As I reflected on this afternoon, something started to click. Ministry of presence isn’t something done for someone—it’s something done with someone. It is not an act, it is an invitation to openness and sharing, to vulnerability, and ultimately to a relationship. That’s the beauty of it—ministry of presence asks is that we be who we are made to be: human persons created with love and dignity by our God to be in relationships with each other.

I’m still working on finding that balance and, it might take a while to get there, but I’m on the right path. For now I’ll just take it one computer class at a time.

Katie left) and the women of Ca

Katie (left) and the women of Calvary Women’s Services

*—Names changed in interest of privacy.

Katie served as the programs associate from fall 2014 to spring 2016. From the Buffalo, New York area, Katie graduated in 2013 from the University of Scranton where she majored in Theology and Women’s Studies. Prior to joining the FMS team she served for a year with Capuchin Youth and Family Ministries where she helped organize and lead retreats for different Catholic groups. Currently she works for the USCCB in the Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.