June 1, 2012

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

‘I’ll be going with them’

David SilerCatholic Charities’ new women and children’s homeless shelter, Becky’s Place, opened three months ago in Bedford. It didn’t take long for the staff at the shelter to face one of their ministry’s most difficult circumstances—asking a mother with a baby to leave.

One of the shelter’s first residents arrived with a 3-month-old infant but, after just a few days, the staff discovered that the mother was keeping recreational drugs and drug paraphernalia in her room—a major breach of the rules with the consequence of immediate expulsion from the program.

Cami Pritchett, shelter director, knew that she would face these kinds of situations. She just didn’t think that it would be within the first couple of weeks of opening.

Pritchett realized that the other residents knew what had happened and that she needed to enforce the rules, but her heart was heavy knowing that she would be putting the mother and her infant back on the streets. And she was filled with regret that they would only spend a couple of days at the shelter because there was so much for them to gain if they stayed longer.

Pritchett realized that facing such a dilemma required a higher authority. So she sat in her office and began to pray. She prayed that God would give her a clear answer. As she sat in the stillness of her office, she said that she received a very clear message—quickly pointing out that it wasn’t an audible voice, but a “knowing.”

She felt God tell her, “Cami, you can relax. When that mom and baby leave, don’t you realize that I’ll be going with them? Jonah spent just three days in the belly of a whale, and it completely turned his life around, so don’t you underestimate what good will come from her short stay here.”

Pritchett told me that she was engulfed in a feeling of peace.

I think it is human nature for us to want to see the finished product, the finish line, the goal. But for whatever reason, so much of the time we get to witness just a small part of the process. God brings people into our lives for a very particular reason then sends them on their way for the next installment along their journey.

Much of the work of our Catholic Charities’ programs is the planting of seeds. Sometimes we water the seeds or nurture a maturing plant. Once in a while, God allows us to see the germination or harvest.

So just like Pritchett experienced, we have to learn to accept the part that we are asked to play and know that we are not the Creator, but rather the gardener.

When we are faced with those circumstances where we are at the end of our rope, or we don’t have a clue about the next step to take, I think that we can learn from Pritchett and pause in the stillness to seek the wisdom of God, who sees the big picture and knows the end product.

As the late Archbishop Oscar Romero wrote in his prayer, “A Future Not Our Own,” “We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.”

(David Siler is the executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at dsiler@archindy.org.)

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