I had the privilege of serving in the Diocese of Jackson between 1997-2001, first as a seventh/eighth grade teacher, and later, as the principal of St. Francis of Assisi School in Greenwood. This offered to me a very rich ministry and new learning. I treasure and value that experience greatly, mostly because of the unique and powerful culture of the region. The families and individuals that I was able to get to know have had a lasting impact upon my life.
I am most grateful for our missionary work in the Mississippi Delta. As a contribution to your paper’s coverage of the Year of Consecrated Life, I am offering the following reflection that shares insights into my current ministry and life as I say “Thank you” to Mississippi.
‘Merciful like the Father’ is the “motto” of the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy as set by Pope Francis. He states, “It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.”
Looking at my current ministry as director of Mission and Pastoral Care at our local healthcare network – Holy Family Memorial, I can personally relate to the daily bestowing of hope and mercy upon the most vulnerable and marginalized individuals and their families within our service area, Manitowoc County and the surrounding Lakeshore Region.
I consistently witness Holy Family Memorial staff and volunteers welcoming the stranger with warm smiles, thoughtful, kind acts and gestures of real concern. Our entire team of healthcare professionals, from our housekeeping staff to our cardiologists, brings healing to the sick through compassionate service, respect for human dignity and the personal expertise that is theirs to share.
Being in pastoral care, my staff and I regularly offer counsel to the doubtful as family decisions need to be made regarding advance directives and other end-of-life issues.
Giving comfort to the afflicted is a daily fact as one is surrounded by others who are suffering severe illnesses, an unexpected family crisis or from multiple chronic health challenges.
I have grown spiritually in my role as Mission and Pastoral Care director. I truly appreciate the opportunities which are presented to me each day for spiritual services and comfort-giving. These are life-changing and life-saving events for others. It is truly a privilege and a joy: the way that we can become ‘merciful like the Father’ if we are open and willing.
Sister Rochelle Kerkhof, OSF
(Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, Mississippi Catholic requested reflections from the orders of consecrated people serving in the Diocese of Jackson as a way to celebrate the Year for Consecrated Life. Religious wishing to submit a reflection should send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.)