Care for the Caretaker

The 2017 Orthodox Family Ministry Conference was held near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from September 20 to 23. The host parish was All Saints Greek Orthodox Church in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Sponsored by the Center for Family Care of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the 2017 Family Ministry Conference focused on “The Orthodox Family in a Changing World.” Attendees included clergy, seminarians, pastoral care workers, lay assistants, professional counselors, ministry leaders, and lay people interested in building family ministry in their parishes and homes.

I was blessed to be able to attend this wonderful conference. Many things stand out from these three days, but I loved the the morning we discussed care for the caretaker. I am the primary caretaker for my mother who is 88 years young, so this was of great interest to me.

Several years ago I gave up a full-time job in order to assist my mother. I am blessed to have a husband who supports my decision and has a good job. Still, this has been a lifestyle change for us and very stressful at times. The Right Reverend, Bishop John, spoke on this very subject. He reminded us that when we board a plane, we are advised to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first.

Taking Time for Refresh

In order to help others, we need to care for ourselves as well. I know this is true. When I try to take on too much, I feel overwhelmed and stressed. Because I do not have a full-time regular job, I assume that I need to do extra because of this. Even those of us who do not work outside the home often care for small children or grandchildren, elderly parents, handicapped siblings or others. Priests and counselors, and their spouses, especially need to care for themselves. Emphasis was placed on obtaining regular breaks.

It is good to take a vacation whenever possible, even if it is just a getaway weekend. We need to allow ourselves to be taken care of, too, taking turns giving and receiving care. Asking other people to fill in for us is absolutely necessary to avoid burn out.

I love how His Grace emphasized the need for peacefulness in our routine. Daily prayer and meditation is how I accomplish this. Sitting in stillness for 10 to 20 minutes each day can be restorative. Not overloading my schedule is another way of providing self care. We should also remember to be instruments of God’s peace and provide ourselves and others with tender, loving care. The last thought is that we need to remember that God does the work. We should be good listeners and remember that we don’t have to fix the problem. In our faithfulness to God, we need to allow Him to do the fixing.

Photo CreditCourtesy of Steven Christoforou

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Joanne Jamis Cain is a steward of the Holy Trinity…
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