I looked out over more than 250 young people at the shrine attending an all-day event to help prepare youth for confirmation. It wasn’t the event that struck me but the number of adults who were sprinkled liberally among the young people. Some, I knew, had been attending to young people in their parishes for many years. Others, perhaps new to being volunteers, were actively engaged not only with listening to the speaker but also with how their youth were responding.
Volunteers in parishes do more than pick up the slack at a fish fry, a pancake breakfast or a spaghetti dinner — although as we know they do a terrific job with that — they assist at liturgies, visit the sick, take Communion to hospitals and make sure people remain connected to their parish communities.
They also answer the call to assist with their parish or diocesan St. Vincent de Paul conference or council. It’s truly amazing if we stop to think about all that volunteers do. It is a blessing to know if we meet someone who needs assistance we have an organization that exists to take care of those in most need.
Our reflections radiate out to put our faith into action in many ways, and it is this reflection that guides our single and community reactions to needs that we discover. Sometimes we are called to move out of our comfort zones to minister. I felt compelled to volunteer at a local hospital, to visit patients and bring them Communion. After the training and my first visit, I knew I should have kept still and let my guilt wash over me instead of asking to take on this role. Instead, I now have a variety of experiences I never imagined I would.
The best or worst of those was the day I knocked on a door to see if a patient wanted to receive Communion. A woman opened the door and asked me if I was in the right room. After assuring her I had a name and a room number, she smiled and let me know I was at the door of one of the hospital’s labor rooms, and “we don’t have a baby yet.” Oh, no. I apologized profusely and backed away. Ah, God’s sense of humor is lurking around every corner of my life, I find. It makes every day more interesting than the last.
While this one small attempt to go beyond myself has taught me more lessons than I care to contemplate, it does let me see the tremendous number of hours others spend to make sure one more person doesn’t go to bed hungry or that a son/daughter/wife/husband doesn’t have to grieve alone. Some volunteers have offered to pray for those with needs beyond human help or understanding, and theirs is a great help.
Each of us has to find a way to move beyond our own self, our wants and needs to see that God asks us to lift up people, to keep the Beatitudes in front of us, lest we forget that we need to make a difference in the world, and it begins within ourselves.