Tony and Rita Myres recently accepted to serve as joint co-ordinators for the Pastoral Care Team at St. Martins. Their first order of business was to set out what this role entails. They situated it in the following terms.
The primary role of the coordinators is to act as a link between the Rector, the pastoral care visitors and those receiving visits, to ensure pastoral needs are addressed in a timely and effective manner. To accomplish this the coordinator(s) need to:
- Recruit, screen and assist new team members, as needed, to join the team.
- Identify, with the help of the Rector and others, those parish members who are isolated, ill, bereaved or lonely and who would wish to receive regular visits.
- Assign those in need to an available volunteer visitor.
- Maintain accurate, updated lists of Parish members, who are being visited.
- Maintain a record of volunteer visitors and those they are currently visiting.
- Check in monthly with visitors to ensure feedback reports, re the status / needs of those visited, are sent to the coordinator(s) and the Rector, preferably by e-mail.
- Organize quarterly meetings of team members to build team support and cohesion.
- Provide team members with support and resource materials. Encourage all team members to attend the 10-week Pastoral Care Training Course and periodic updates, which are run by the Ottawa Pastoral Care Training Program.
- Meet with the Rector to update him / her regularly.
- Attend Parish Council as needed and provide an annual report for Vestry.
The second order of business for the new co-ordinators was to convene a meeting of the present Pastoral Care Team and take stock of where things are at. Currently, 21 parishioners, mostly in nursing or retirement homes, are being visited either by telephone or in person, by the team of six regular visitors. It was also noted that many members of the parish on their own initiative visit or bring together their neighbours, who are shut in or isolated, so that both the number of visitors and those visited is greater than what is officially recorded. Rita and Tony definitely applaud these “unofficial” visits and would also encourage communication about these visits to Fr. Richard, in case needs change or visitors cannot continue to visit.
At that same meeting, there was discussion about improving and facilitating communication, between Fr. Richard and family members of those people being visited. What resulted is a type of “calling card” that can be left after a visit to introduce the team member and provide the family with contact information for Father Richard and the church office.
On balance, the predominant focus for pastoral care here at St Martin’s is presently on the congregation’s seniors who are living either in their own homes, retirement residences or in long-term care facilities. However, Rita and Tony know firsthand there are many other needs that fall under the umbrella of pastoral care as the following personal reflection offered by one of the team members can attest to:
Personally, for me, pastoral care is about being willing to be ‘one-on-one’ with someone who is experiencing life in uncharted waters. When it comes to serving on the pastoral Care Team, I have to say my willingness to be there for an individual continually relies on a prayerful trust that I can bring to that person openhearted, unbounded listening and a comforting presence. The conversations that ensue are not necessarily easy ones to be in, but they are profound, they are privileged—often times joyful —and, yes, sacred.
With an expanded team, it is clear to Tony and Rita that St Martin stands ready to expand the capacity and mission of its pastoral care in the future. If you have an interest in this ministry, they would encourage you to please come and discuss it with them or with Father Richard. Rita and Tony bring to their joint role the experience, compassion, credentials and willingness to invest time orienting newcomers to becoming pastoral care visitors. It is an involvement they believe people would find rewarding and challenging. So, by all means feel free to contact them. Their respective Email addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com
In brief terms
- Pastoral Care is a faith community’s organized, intentional and specific response to the pastoral, spiritual and emotional needs of its members.
- Via a team, whose ministry is to make God’s presence visible and tangible within the community, through a dual role, both parts of which are of equal importance:
- to respond to the needs of others, identified within the community
- To draw the community’s members into a deeper understanding of the Christian need to embody the presence of God for others, by practicing ongoing, responsive, loving presence for each other.
- With the team relying on its Rector or faith leaders for support and guidance, and on pastoral training for preparation to do the work of providing presence.
Information about the local Pastoral Care Training Program can be found at www.ottawapastoralcare.com