A ministry of care (PE nr 1114)

Some of our confreres, especially in remote areas, might not have the chance to read the Petit Echo, either because of postal delivery failure, or because they only have an Internet access on their cellphone. Whenever I read particularly essential articles, I will post them as ordinary posts on the website, which should be easier to read from a cellphone. Don’t miss those. 
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Integrity of Ministry : A Ministry of Care

Peter Joseph Cassidy , M.Afr. (in PE nr 1114)

Since ministry began as we know it today, we have been challenged to regularly evaluate our approach to it. During my formative days (midnineties), the term Integrity of Ministry did not exist nor was the reality mentioned but one felt that there was an unspoken word in relation to integrity of self and ministry and if it had been embraced then, it would have complimented our approach to ministry and self-care in all its aspects today. Thankfully today that attitude has changed and now our formation programme incorporates this reality and hopefully better prepares our confreres for their daily missionary journeys and associated challenges.

Since I took my Oath in December 1996 like most of us, we have held different and varied roles in the Society. Some of these roles we were prepared for and others by the nature of our calling we acquired without much or no preparation. Looking back over my years of ministry, I can honestly say that Integrity of Ministry has been the most challenging to the point of anger and frustration. From the moment of my first appointment until the present day, I have been confronted personally and I also had to confront others in their approach to self-awareness and to the ministry which has not been an easy task. The greatest challenge, when confronting self and others, is the image we portray and how we let our family and people we serve down. At times we take for granted our role in life and forget the role and image we portray to those we serve. There is a certain sense of arrogance attached to our calling, born out of history whereby people were fearful to confront us but this attitude has changed and people whom we serve are ready to confront, challenge and expose us if we step out of our role today.

My time in Ireland and now my return to South Africa have made it clear that our people want us to be truthful and honest to our calling.

The number of workshops I attended and now through the giving of workshops in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg in relation to Safeguarding, I am constantly taken aback by the number of people attending such workshops. It suggests a cry from the people that we serve that they want us to respond to our calling with integrity. It also suggests that they are concerned about us and want to protect us to the point that they are ready to help, not cover up but help us if we go down a difficult path in our ministry and in our life.

We need to be proactive rather than reactive and develop a positive approached to Professional Supervision. I remember in our European Provincial Council I asked about supervision and I was told that we have it in Spiritual direction, respectively, Supervision is different from Spiritual Direction. As we are aware, prevention is better than cure and I believe that there is a need for supervision whereby our needs and concerns are shadowed by a professional who recognises an emotional downward spiral. This is the case in chaplaincy where one has to prove within a civil realm how often you attend supervision and like any professional counsellor today they have to do the same. Our ministry today has changed but the challenges still remain, are we humble enough to seek professional care for ourselves?

As Missionaries of Africa, we have spent a lot be it in time and finance in ‘curing’ confreres, but one has to ask would it not have been more productive to invest and encourage Professional Supervision whereby we would have a mirror to look into our lives and embrace our self-care. All of us who call ourselves missionaries are confronted daily by the horrific personal stories of the people we serve, which at times mirrors our own stories. Once these stories are not cared for, they can bring you into a ‘dark’ place which in turn will affect you and your ministry. Our people want us to be true and honest in our activities and this can only be embraced if we are true and honest to ourselves.

This same reality needs to be embraced in our Missionary of Africa communities whereby we also need to be strong to confront and care for our fellow confreres if we see them going down a difficult path. We tend to turn to our superiors first, taking the easy option rather than caring and confronting the issue and confrere at hand. Our communities need to be a ‘place of safety’ whereby we are cared for and felt cared for. At times our communities have been a place of pain and lacking in care.

We need to develop communities which care for one another’s needs, not policing the community but using the skills we have acquired when dealing with the people we serve and enacting them in our immediate community. Living in a community where the issues are not spoken about (elephant in the corner) is very difficult and draws energy from oneself, the community and our ministry.

Supervision is a means of self-care and was mentioned in the last Chapter but it has remained there. Let all of us be humble enough to seek care by means of supervision before it is not too late and build on a ministry which is integral to the image of God.

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