Sharing a spirit of helpfulness-
How many of us, as we were growing up, were told “patience is a virtue”? Perhaps we did not get something at a store we were begging for. Maybe we had uncontained excitement for an upcoming holiday. Or we were en route to a summer vacation up north, and we could not wait to arrive. We have all heard this saying numerous times in our lives. It is among the best lessons our parents, caregivers, and teachers could have taught us. Frequently we are confronted with situations where we have to exercise patience. It is not until adulthood where we realize how important it is to be patient, and yet how truly challenging it can be.
As part of our Christian tradition, the Spiritual Works of Mercy help guide our behavior. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the seven Spiritual Works of Mercy include the following: counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing the sinner, comforting the sorrowful, forgiving injuries, bearing wrongs patiently, and praying for the living and the dead (www.usccb.org).
In a time where we are bombarded with divisive rhetoric from our media, when tensions in our city seem to be rising, and everyone seems to have a strong opinion about our pending presidential election, demonstrating compassion, empathy, and patience with one another can be very difficult. Yet, the alternative is to live with anger and frustration filling our hearts, rather than the love Christ called us to have for each other.
At the root of patience is the ability to either help or hinder another human being. Without patience, we can cause others frustration, discomfort, or even suffering. The Basilica of Saint Mary is committed to providing equal access to services and resources for all its parishioners. For example, an individual with celiac disease can receive low-gluten host at Eucharist. The Basilica also provides hearing devices for individuals suffering from hearing loss. A person who is visually impaired may request a large print program at Mass.
Peggy Wolfe, an 86-year-old parishioner who has attended The Basilica for 11 years, serves on the church’s Disability Awareness Committee. Working on behalf of the church, the committee takes their role of ensuring the church is adhering to all ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements very seriously. For the last 16 years, Wolfe has experienced gradual vision loss as a result of macular degeneration.Further, Wolfe is also hearing impaired.
Though she was initially drawn to The Basilica because of the beautiful music she heard at Mass, she said she “loves the spirit of helpfulness.” She is especially appreciative of the wonderful ushers who volunteer their time at The Basilica, but she also values the many parishioners and fellow committee members who help her. She acknowledges that it is difficult to ask for help, and says this can be a hurdle to overcome when you are initially experiencing some type of loss. Yet, in order to deal with barriers, one must be able to ask for help.
Wolfe does not view her losses as limitations. Rather, with an optimistic and positive attitude, she admits she cannot change the course of action her health has taken and would prefer to use her experience as a way to help others. She has published a book about her experience titled Vision Loss: Strategies for Living with Hope and Independence. Wolfe’s mother and uncle also experienced vision loss. She taps into her experience in helping them cope, along with her personal insight, to shed light on how to successfully live with vision loss. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 14 million people above the age of 12 are living with vision loss in the United States (www.cdc.gov).
LaVail Valentines is another instrumental member of the Disability Awareness Committee and recently participated in an accessibility audit of The Basilica’s buildings and grounds. LaVail has limited mobility due to a stroke and now uses a wheelchair. In order to thoroughly assess The Basilica campus he traveled every pathway and opened every door. The concluding report brought to light several accessibility issues that will be addressed by the Parish Council executive committee. LaVail said being a part of such an important group makes him feel like he is helping people have a easier time accessing one of the most import part of their lives.
We are called to be patient, kind, forgiving, and loving towards one another. The resources and services provided by The Basilica can certainly assist those of us in need of help and support. However, we can also help one another on an individual basis. Often times, it is in small ways, things that we often take for granted, when we can make a big difference. Smile. Laugh. Help guide someone down a flight of stairs. Offer to drive your fellow parishioner to Mass. Share a meal or a cup of coffee. An extended hand of support can make a world of difference to someone in need. After all, are we not all in need at some point in our lives?
Ann T. Deiman-Thornton has been a member of The Basilica for 16 years and is a resident of North Minneapolis. She is deeply concerned about making our community a better place.
Members of the Disability Awareness Committee, Peggy Wolfe and LaVail Valentines.
From BASILICA Magazine Fall 2016, The Spiritual Works of Mercy—Practicing mercy in our lives