My ministry as Spiritual Coordinator for our two sisters in Our Lady of Prompt Succor Nursing Facility in Opelousas has been a blessing. My focus is visiting and praying with them with a consciousness that I am to be a Carmelite presence to them as they live away from a Carmelite community. Visiting, praying with them, keeping them abreast with news of our sisters and ministries, celebrating Carmelite feasts and just enjoying each other’s presence is our agenda. When I first visited the sisters at Evangeline Oaks, I brought communion to them three or four times a week. This formed the deeper spiritual relationship among us. Now, the sisters a Catholic home run by Marianites of the Holy Cross I have daily Mass which enriches their daily experience, but which I miss sharing with then. With them, I try to be a Carmelite presence to them and to encourage them to be a Carmelite presence to the other residents at the home.

Sister Barbara Nell, left, giving Sister Fatima Mouton communion.

A secondary ministry has been as a caregiver to one of our sisters in our home, St. Leo Convent. This entails assistance in rising, retiring and giving help at night when needed. This ministry has led me to a whole deeper level of involvement with personal assistance and a more acute understanding of the sisters I serve at the nursing facility.

I have learned that physical and/or mental impairment does not negate spiritual awareness and need. Prayer, especially those of the past, often near the surface of our minds and hearts continue to bring peace, consolation and strength when life experiences are difficult. Respect toward and awareness of the dignity of others are reciprocal; love and affection are as necessary to the disabled, spiritual person as medicine and therapy is to relief of pain; a personal and loving relationship between caregiver and care given is as essential to each as the love and affection of a parent and child.

This I have “learned about” from reading and study; but, this I know and realize through the experiences with these sisters, my mother, and others with nursing needs. It has not always been easy, but the effort has always been rewarding in regard to my own spiritual growth. Jesus does teach us to live as he lived among his people.

One of the gifts I have received through this ministry has been through involvement with an alzheimer’s support group of caregivers. Offering with them a morning of prayer led me to pray, reflect and trust that God would use me in touching their needs. In this prayer and reflection, I’ve been able to share the gifts that God has and is giving me in my need — wisdom and understanding, patience and fortitude, and that much misunderstood gift, fear of the Lord, the grace to strive to do what I am called for others for the love of God.

A saying I’ve kept in heart for years is so true today: It’s hard, but good. Spiritual and physical caregiving is not easy, but it is a blessing!