Parishioners from the Cumberland/Perry Deanery offered a time and place of respite for caregivers during the ninth annual Day of Prayer and Care at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Mechanicsburg.
A welcoming event for men and women who care for family members, friends and neighbors with chronic illness, disabilities and addiction, the afternoon provided much-needed time for reflection and rest for those who give so much of themselves in caring for others.
“From the get-go, when we first started this event, the goal each year has been to offer a day for caregivers to relax, refresh, enjoy camaraderie and to hear and realize what caregivers do for others. They know and we know what they do day in and day out, but when their ministry is actually spoken and shown to them, they really understand,” event co-chair Sue Fletcher said during the gathering, held on Saturday, October 22.
There was time for presentations, questions and sharing from the Cumberland County Office of Aging and the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Caregivers’ Support Group. Guest speaker Carol Morel, from the Diocese’s Formation for the Ministry of Spiritual Direction, offered an emotional talk about caring for her mother, who struggling with a lifetime of mental health issues until she died last year at age 85.
Morel shared the good, the bad and the ugly. She also spoke of how her mother found spiritual healing in the Mass, Adoration, Confession, the Rosary and prayer.
“I believe that from the very moment my mom united her will with God’s, everything she experienced became redemptive,” Morel said.
She spoke of how caregiving embeds the caregiver into the mysteries of Christ, and underscored the importance of having a firm faith and unrelenting hope. She also said that caregiving is Eucharistic in that caregivers empty themselves for the benefit of another.
“By faith, we are called to see and embody Christ. For me, what matters most in caregiving is real presence.”
Father Charles Persing, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, led caregivers in the Liturgy of the Hours, and invited those present to receive a blessing of their hands.
“When we see Christ at work, he is always touching people,” Father Persing said. “Your simple hand – maybe old, maybe wrinkled – brings great hope to people, because when we touch them, Christ is touching them.”
The annual event is an emotionally-charged day, as caregivers reflect on the challenges, stresses, despair and grief so often experienced by caregivers and those in their care.
“It’s an emotional release, especially during the blessing, and that can be very much needed,” Fletcher said. “But it also shows them that they’re not alone, that someone else understands what they’re going through every day. They can find respite here, and in giving their work to God.”
Relaxation, camaraderie and activities concluded the afternoon, as attendees enjoyed desserts, played bingo and decorated cupcakes. “It’s important for them to just have fun and recharge,” Fletcher said.
“My hope is that they realize they are doing God’s work. They are God’s hands, and they are showing His love through their work and love for others. He is with them in their trying days, in their stress, in their tears, and we are here for them too,” Fletcher said.
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness