Care for the Caregivers

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Pastoral Care Conference renews, reconnects parish ministers to Jesus (Pictured: Bishop Noonan with Pastoral Care Conference participants)

After working a long shift as a law enforcement officer 28 years ago, Judy Kornheiser returned home and flipped on the television, when she heard Pope John Paul II speaking to a vast audience.

Pastoral Care Conference renews, reconnects parish ministers to Jesus

(Pictured: Bishop Noonan with Pastoral Care Conference participants)

After working a long shift as a law enforcement officer 28 years ago, Judy Kornheiser returned home and flipped on the television, when she heard Pope John Paul II speaking to a vast audience. Kornheiser turned her attention to the program and watched as the leader of the Catholic Church distributed Holy Communion to a group of teenagers.

pastoral-care-097“I saw how much he loved Jesus, as he offered the Body of Christ to these young people,” she said. “That brief experience grabbed my heart and never let go.”

Today Kornheiser relives that moment every time she brings the Blessed Eucharist to the sick and shut-ins of her community. A member of the Ministry to the Sick ministry at All Souls Catholic Church in Sanford, she said there was a time in her life that she was unable to participate in the celebration of Mass because of transportation problems. “That burned in my soul,” she said. “I could not let others, especially those in my parish, experience the same feeling. The Eucharist means that much to me.”

Kornheiser was among the more than 300 attendees at the Pastoral Care Conference, presented by the diocesan Office of Family Life & Pastoral Care on Aug. 25 at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Winter Park. With the theme, “Do You See Me Now? Nurturing the Healthy Minister in Ourselves,” the day-long event offered an opportunity for pastoral care ministers to renew their minds, bodies and spirits.

During the celebration of Mass, Bishop John Noonan said, “We are here today to renew ourselves on the journey to heaven, to reconnect to the Lord. Sometimes we get sidetracked. This is the day for us to remember that you, as the caregivers in your parishes, are bringing Christ, the Christ that is present within you, to those in need.”

That is the very gift Marcia Coyle hopes she brings to those she serves. A minister to the sick at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Palm Bay said she hopes by bringing the Eucharist to the sick that she brings the Lord’s peace and strength to them in their healing or dying process.

During the keynote presentation, national speakers Graziano and Nancy Marcheschi entertained and inspired the crowd, reminding them that God is present in each of them. Graziano Marcheschi told the story of renowned poet Maya Angelou, who as a child was traumatized and for years would not utter a word. Every night, her grandmother would brush her hair, reassuring the child that someday she would speak and the whole world would listen.

He continued, telling of a young child who was afraid of the dark. When her mother said she need not be afraid because God was with her, the child responded, “But I need a God with skin.”

“I need a God with skin,” Graziano Marcheschi said. “In a way, that phrase proclaims the heart of Christianity. Maya had a God with skin in the person of her grandmother. Her grandmother gave a shape to God. She gave God hands and a hairbrush and arms with which to embrace this frightened girl who was deeply wounded. She became Maya’s voice and the voice of God for her, speaking hope, prophesying healing and prophesying that hers too would one day become a prophetic voice. God is here in the person in each and every one of us. Our God wants us to be able to touch him, to see him, to feel him, to smell him. Our God takes shape in us.”

The conference was rounded out with a series of workshops focusing on one’s own renewed journey with God.

“The response to the event was overwhelmingly positive,” said Heidi Peckham, secretary of Pastoral Ministries. “The good humor, useful practices and fraternity were spirit lifting. The keynote speakers were enlightening and enlivening, while the workshop presenters were informing and inspiring. Everyone seemed to bring away a renewed sense of spirit within.”