Stephen Ministries, a nonprofit Christian educational program, is based on the story of Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles. He was chosen by the Apostles to minister to his community on their behalf. Since 1975, over 12,000 congregations worldwide have installed Stephen Ministry teams who are trained to care for people who have suffered a loss or are in a crisis.
In partnership with Saint Julie Billiart Catholic Church in Newbury Park, Calif. Notre Dame Associates Terri Bond and Cindy Smith have taken the first steps toward establishing a Stephen Ministry program for that parish. They recently attended a celebration Mass where attendees prayed for the success of the program.
“Seeing the sisters sitting behind us in a pew at the Mass was wonderful,” said Cindy. “They literally and figuratively have our backs, and that is the only reason why we can do this.”
Sisters of Notre Dame will help train Stephen Ministers for Saint Julie’s, and some will become ministers themselves.
Both Cindy and Terri found hope in the company of others during personal crises in the past. They both turned to the Associates program and became involved with the Sisters of Notre Dame.
“After I lost my husband, and the preparations and the funeral were over, things quieted down and I had to deal with my loss. To have someone to meet with in times like those is very important,” Terri said.
Each Stephen Minister goes through 50 hours of training on how to care for the emotional needs of another by putting Christ first. Once prepared, a Stephen Minister can be matched with a “care receiver” who is seeking the support of a companion. Cindy and Terri have already completed their training.
“We learned that care-receivers are sometimes in such crisis that they can’t even go to their families. Seeing a Stephen Minister can be different, they are willing to listen without judgment,” Cindy said.
To both women, simply being a friend and a good listener is the most important aspect of Stephen Ministry.
The program will be officially launched in the spring of 2016. Those interested in becoming minsters or receiving care may contact Sister Marie Paul Grech via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.