Seminarian summers: learning the art of being present

By Nick Adam
A key part of priestly formation is spending time in the hospital ministering to the sick. This summer I was able to be a part of the pastoral care team at St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson. My time in the hospital was a time to grow in my identity as a minister of God’s love, and it was also a time to grow in humility through the ups and downs of life in this difficult and beautiful place.
I would typically see 25-35 patients per day, and each one had a different story to tell. I believe that the most evident transformation during the summer was brought about in me rather than the patients I was ministering to. Those I visited showed me what it means to praise God in the good times and in the bad times. They also gave me the experience of connecting on a spiritual level with both Catholics and non-Catholics.
This summer experience also brought to mind the Gospel passage involving Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Much of my time in the hospital was spent acting like a “Martha.” I loved to see how many patients I could see and I saw my primary role as that of “do-er.” Much like Martha, I spent much of my summer trying to show Jesus how much I loved him by working as much as possible.
As the summer went on, however, I was able to channel my inner-Mary. I was able to simply be present to the person in front of me and in doing this Christ made himself present. Mary knew that Christ needed someone to listen to him more than a home-cooked meal and a cleaned-up home, and I realized during this summer that the patients in the hospital needed me to sit and listen to them and to their story. This is healing in itself, and that is what Jesus desired that evening when he arrived at Martha, Mary, and Lazarus’ home.
After this summer, I believe I have learned to be more willing, like Mary in the Gospel, to trust my instincts and dive a little deeper with patients who seemed to need to tackle some deeper issues. This experience was an example of how effective I can be as a minister and it is exciting to reflect on the fact that I will have more opportunities in the future not only after ordination, but before ordination as well.
On the more practical side, I want to express how much I appreciate the entire staff at St. Dominic’s. We are truly blessed to have such a well-respected Catholic institution right in the heart of our diocese. I especially want to thank director Pat Walden and the entire pastoral team that works tirelessly at St. D’s. These holy folks walked with me, literally, throughout my time in the hospital. I was able to learn from each of them as they showed me the ropes and shared their wisdom with me.
I also enjoyed getting to know the Springfield Dominican sisters who continue to work diligently for their special mission here in our diocese. The Dominican community in Jackson was so welcoming to me, and their example of care and concern for everyone in the hospital was a wonderful model to follow. One of the highlights of the summer was a meal that I helped prepare for the whole Dominican community and for Father Dan Gallagher, who also deserves mention for his nine years of dedicated service to the hospital as full-time chaplain. Father Dan was so much fun to work with and he is such a wonderful example of a servant leader.
Writing this a few weeks removed from my assignment, I am still in awe of these women and men that care for the spiritual health of the patients at St. Dominic’s. I want to thank Sister Celestine, Sister Thecla, Pat, Pam, Father Dan, Dorothy, Mark, Jill, Joe, Claire, Kathy, Aimee, Tanya, Lynn and so many more dedicated staff members who spend their days making sure that patients at St. Dominic’s know that God is in their midst.
When I finished my day at the hospital, I would head to the rectory at St. Richard Parish where Father John Bohn graciously welcomed me as a summer guest. I learned a lot from Father John, and I really appreciated his easy-going spirit and his example of priesthood was also very formative. I enjoyed attending daily Mass at St. Richard Church and was also able to go to several different parishes on the weekend in the Jackson area. This part of my summer affirmed my vocation to the priesthood in Jackson. I am an Alabama native, but I have always believed that God called me to serve in this diocese, and this summer only served to confirm that.
(Nick Adam attends Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans and is scheduled to be ordained a priest in 2018. He is a member of the Catholic Community of Meridian and worked at WTOK-TV in Meridian prior to entering the seminary in 2012.)