October: “Living Witness”

Goal: “Respond to the emerging needs for ministry with inclusion and cultural sensitivity.”

Question: 1) In light of our goal, how have the past 6 months redefined your understanding of “emerging needs” in ministry?

Responses:

  • “I am not sure that my understanding of ‘emerging needs’ in ministry has been redefined, but in the past 6 months the focus of the ‘emerging needs’ has shifted to be the emerging inclusive needs of our own Sisters and their needs relative to the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, for every IHM Sister, the emerging needs in ministry have been to align ourselves and our actions with proactive, preventative measures to protect ourselves and others from the virus [spread]. We IHM’s have had to adapt to the insidious nature of COVID-19 which has affected our culture. We have had to be culturally sensitive to ourselves.”
  • “… there was a great technological shift because people could not leave home for in person encounters. This exposed all the deficiencies in households where there was a lack of multiple devices for online work and online learning at the same time. It also exposed generations of people who were not technologically proficient. It forced adults [including me] to look at learning in a [whole] new way or give up!”
  • “[In very real and ever-present ways,] the global issues of the pandemic, racial injustice, economic crisis, and immigration… have affected our ministries, especially [for] the most vulnerable of those we serve.”
  • “My ministry centers around mentoring first year teachers. As I respond to ‘emerging needs’ in our Church and schools, I am more conscious of advising the teachers to go beyond the documentation required for ‘Protecting God’s Children.’ Now I ask them to protect in an additional way by spending a few minutes at the beginning of the first week’s school days to listen to their worries and concerns. This builds a good relationship between the children and their teacher to know that someone will listen to their fears of coming back face to face, or not being able to do so because some families only want virtual learning, etc. This assures them that they have a teacher who will listen and console them that they are safe, not only because of all the PPE present in the rooms, but because their concerns are valid!”
  • “[When pondering the ‘emerging needs,’ I was] made even more aware that ‘the poor you will always have with you!’ COVID has widened the gap between rich, middle class, and poor… and the poor are at our doorsteps! [I ask myself]: How can I reach out to them, especially through education? How can I somehow help and support our Sisters who are currently doing such marvelous work in areas such as ESL and literacy?”
  • “In education, students need help in understanding how to navigate a new way of learning. Some find it difficult to transfer from an active, vibrant classroom to sitting in front of a computer learning from a ZOOM lesson. As a teacher, I have to be aware of any frustration that a student is experiencing and intervene and help.”
  • “Recently, I have assembled a new exhibit to celebrate my friends and former students in the Black Community. This is my visual way to affirm and support ‘Black Lives
    Matter.’ This show displays twenty of my paintings depicting the people who have enriched my life at the center in Southwest Philadelphia. I describe my 14 years there as a university of life where I experienced great wisdom, generous hospitality, warmth, and exceptional talent. My hope is that my paintings reveal the dignity and the beauty I found in the Black Community on 46th Street!”
  • “Over the past months, as the days dragged on, I was amazed at the emerging needs I found that I seldom or never experienced prior to COVID, both personally and communally. Coming from myself daily, I questioned how was I going to handle the daily fear and anxiety over the spread of the virus, physical and psychological tiredness, dependence with an inability to do anything about the situation, stress and strain coming from others and their ways of dealing with the isolation. There was great difficulty in finding God in our world and in finding something for which to be grateful. Coming from within my ministry daily, I wondered how I was going to handle all that was required to protect those to whom I ministered: following precise protocols, taking extra times of service for all that had to be done, keeping spirits up for the good of others, being positive (without apparent reason) , and finding calmness to relate to others and their needs. I felt weary and vulnerable in every way and sensed that others were the same of worse off.”
  • “The shock and reality of the pandemic took more than one week to process. As the medical concerns became clearer, the protocols became stricter, and there was a deep anxiety about everyone doing what needed to be done to keep the virus from spreading. I tried to pray through the news cycles and keep a hopeful eye toward a bigger perspective of needs beyond myself and outside the necessary needs of my own local convent. I did not always succeed! All facets of ministry became remote but the concerns and emerging needs from the realities at hand… were anything but remote! Keeping an even pace of ministry and rest, “play” and prayer did help; using ZOOM for more than ministry also helped to bridge social distancing with what buoyed up the mind and heart when connecting with those loved as well as those I knew to be more isolated as today’s ‘emerging needs’ became new neighbors both inside and outside my door!”