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The simple, profound importance of a ministry of presence

My husband and I were in North Platte last month to cheer on our nephew, who was playing in a Babe Ruth League regional baseball tournament. On that Sunday, we attended Mass at Holy Spirit Church.

During his homily, Father James Novakowski reminded us unabashedly how blessed we are – how fortunate his parishioners were to live on the Nebraska plains and enjoy the stunning sunrises and sunsets, reside in a community relatively untouched by violence like the big cities, and have neighbors they knew and could count on.

He encouraged us to reflect on our own many blessings. He then challenged us to consider which ones we were not appreciating, which blessings we had left dormant, pushed aside or even abused.

What a great stewardship question! God has given each of us numerous blessings and as stewards, we are called to receive them gratefully, tend to them responsibly, share them with love and return them to God multiplied.

The blessing that came to my mind was the gift of time. I certainly use my time. But am I using that time as a steward, or am I cramming it with endless meetings or remaining too focused on the unchecked boxes on my to-do list?

Where is the time to connect with the fellow parishioner whom we haven’t seen at Mass for a while, or simply pay attention to those around me? Am I using my time as a disciple?

I recently heard the term "ministry of presence" used at a workshop our office hosted. I was struck by the idea and mentioned it to others. Seemingly, I was the only person who had not heard of this term. I understand that the concept speaks to "being" instead of "doing."

I could not help but think of this ministry while attending the funeral of a friend’s mother, Mary Mangus. Her nephew was the presiding priest, and he described her as a person who brought God to those around her by her presence. Mary and her husband, Dick, were at every wedding, graduation, confirmation, school play and soccer game, Father John Markey recalled with gratitude and admiration.

Her faith was a practical one, he said. She knew God was with her at all times, wherever she went. Therefore, she brought God to those around her by her very presence.

She understood the profound opportunity Jesus gave us when he said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I." Our presence, no matter the situation, can and should bring Jesus’ healing, hope and happiness. That is the ministry of presence.

Whether we are at work or school, cheering on our nephew or granddaughter on the sidelines, or just listening to whomever we are with, we bring Jesus’ love.

Sometimes it is all about just showing up. Because, when we do, we know Jesus is with us. That is ministry and that is a great gift worth stewarding.

 

Shannan Brommer is director of the archdiocesan Office of Stewardship and Development. Contact her at smbrommer@archomaha.org.

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