The best gift to a grieving person is a listening ear and heart. An ear to hear the words of grief and loneliness. A heart to help bear the love that gathers as a lump in the throat, as a sea pouring from the eyes. As I lead grief support groups and meet persons in a funeral home as a greeter, I hope I have that kind of ear and heart.
I encourage other religious sisters to consider such ministries. There are lots of things that consecrated religious do: teach, nurse, help migrants, and minister in foreign missions, hospitality kitchens, and courtrooms. As sisters grow older, some of these jobs are beyond their physical capabilities. But every religious sister (and religious brother and senior-status priest) has dozens of possibilities that require other ways to walk along with God’s People on our common journey. Inside each retired religious is spiritual energy. (I know some who are real dynamos!) It’s that spiritual energy that people need to tap. But these sisters don’t wait to be asked. They’re walking with others in their grief. They’re sharing wisdom with youth. They’re sharing insights about teaching, caring, aiding from their own lived experiences. Above all, they pray. In a word, they fulfill their title as “sister.” They walk side by side with the People of God—even from their wheelchair or bed. Sisters have spent their lives reading, reflecting, storing wise nuggets. Treasure them, cherish them, let them be your sister. It’s what they do best.