When asked to write this article, I hesitated for a moment and then said yes. There was a time when I would have immediately said no, no, no!!! When I was thirty-five years old, I had a faith experience. God had been inviting me to get to know Him better for years and I kept saying no, until I finally said yes to making a Cursillo Weekend. My life changed because of that experience. God wants our light to shine, not be kept under a bushel. I finally had the courage to put my trust in Him and simply saying yes to God’s invitation to be God’s Light, God’s Love, God’s Compassion. God has invited me to be His servant many times through other people. There have been times, in strength, I’ve said yes and in weakness, I’ve said no. God always gives us a choice.
Besides fulfilling my role as a deacon in the Church, for the past eight years I’ve been involved with the L’Arche Community of North Bay and with Cassellholme, a nursing home in North Bay. Saying yes to the invitation to be on the Board of Directors for L’Arche North Bay and to be on the Pastoral Team at Cassellholme has enriched my life immensely. At the heart of the L’Arche Community are people with developmental disabilities, whom we call “Core Members”. Assistants come to support, care for, and share life with the Core Members, living very much like a family and friends rather than as a client and staff. There are three such homes in North Bay. As Board Members, we are encouraged to be directly involved with the community. My wife, Nicky, and I attend many of the L’Arche fundraising activities that occur annually. Some of these are a Spaghetti Supper, the Cookie Walk & Christmas Pageant and the Community Walk. We also attend a monthly prayer luncheon and an annual BBQ. The Board members, Core members, Assistants and Staff members also gather for an annual retreat held at the Sisters’ Motherhouse. But best of all, is having supper with the Core members and Assistants in their home. This is where Nicky and I have gotten to know the Core Members and the Assistants. We have experienced the gifts of these beautiful people; the gifts of welcoming, simplicity, spontaneity, transparency and directness. They challenge us to be as they are. We are truly humbled to be a part of their lives. We receive much more than we can give in being a part of this loving community.
As a pastoral volunteer at Cassellholme, I simply spend time with people who don’t receive many visitors or who are confined to a wheelchair or to their bed. I visit four to five people once a week for two hours or more. Some of these people are in palliative care. In time, one develops a close and special relationship with these wonderful people. Just sitting and being with these people brings much joy to them and to me. This is a ministry that I am so grateful to God for.
In closing, I would like to quote Jean Vanier, Founder of L’Arche:
“When we begin to believe that there is greater joy in working with and for others, rather than just for ourselves, then society will truly become a place of celebration.”
Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph