Stephen Ministry: Strictly Confidential
by Marillyn Seeberger, Stephen Ministry lay Leader
Each of these folks, plus others not pictured, have had 50 hours or more of training to serve as Stephen Ministers.
Read this only if you can promise to keep everything in confidence.
“Mary” was literally at her wit’s end. She was the only child of a widowed father who was suffering from increasing dementia, so she was his primary caregiver. His demands for attention increased daily and mostly without warning. Her son was graduating from high school this year and she had assumed some responsibilities for his end-of-school events and other activities. She also had a part-time job with an unsympathetic and domineering boss. Her daughter needed help in planning her wedding and it was important to “Mary” to spend this time with her, too. She loved her father without question but she was so tired. She felt as if she were walking through a thick mire and could not make a step forward without taking two steps back. She simply could not make any decisions and she was falling apart over being pulled in so many directions. “Mary” needed help.
“John” had suffered a traumatic experience and was having thoughts of suicide and had developed a drinking problem. He was sinking deeper and deeper into depression. He knew he needed help, but didn’t know how to get it. He did not have a relationship with a church. He had no place to turn. “John” needed help.
“She” moved back to her home town with her children, immediately following a bad divorce. Living with relatives had created additional stress for all parties. Her problems seemed unending and she needed someone to talk to besides the well-meaning friends and relatives who wanted to solve her problems. She just needed to ‘get it all out’. She knew she needed to re-establish her self-confidence and build a safe home environment for herself and her children. She couldn’t afford private counseling. “She” needed help.
Each of these scenarios were completed when a Priest, friend, or family member recommended the person to the Stephen Ministry, where they were able to talk out their hurts and fears with a Christian friend who they could trust in their private conversations. The two met for at least an hour each week for an extended period of time and when each agreed that the time was right, they discontinued their meetings, sometimes with the ‘care receiver’ continuing his or her work with a professional counselor. These lives were changed.
All of the above situations are fictional but represent the kinds of stories and situations that are presented to Stephen Ministers. A Stephen Minister relationship changes lives, but the in-depth stories of who, what, when and how cannot be told, nor can the successful endings be shared with you, because Stephen Ministers have taken an oath of confidentiality. The Stephen Ministry changes lives by simply providing and being a listening, non-judgmental ear and a friend.
The Stephen Ministry at Saint Michael is made up of a group of trained laity who have caring hearts for their fellow parishioners and their community. Their love for their neighbor is so great that each of the ministers has voluntarily gone through 50 hours of training and each regularly participates in continuing education amounting to a minimum of one hour or more per month. Some of the ministry members are called Stephen Leaders and they have voluntarily gone through a total of 100 hours of training. All of this effort is supported by the Stephen Ministry’s commitment to total confidentiality. The Stephen Ministers then volunteer their time, just to serve others.
The Stephen Ministry at Saint Michael is part of a national Christian faith-based, peer support group, headquartered in St. Louis since 1975. Care givers are Stephen Ministers and are individually matched with care receivers. A male care giver is assigned to a male care receiver and females to females. You may ask, “Why or when would I need a Stephen Minister?” The answer is: When you are having a rough spell in your life perhaps due to a loss, such as a job, a friendship, a marriage, the death of a loved one, or a difficult family, job, or friend relationship may be your concern. You may find it difficult to discuss your problem with just anyone and maybe you feel that a one-time visit with a priest cannot possibly cover the depths of your need but there is no one else to whom you can turn. That is just the right time for you to contact the Stephen Ministry. Your priest may even recommend that you do so.
Here is what will happen: The Lay Director of Stephen Ministry will meet with you, hear your concerns and thoughtfully and confidentially match you with a Care Giver: a Stephen Minister. Only the Director, who does the matching, will know who you are and the name of your Stephen Minister. No one else will ever know that you are a participant in the program. Stephen Ministers are not psychologists, but you will meet one-on-one at a mutually agreeable location for an hour or so a week for a continued period of time. Your Stephen Minister will not solve your problems but will listen to your concerns. When you both decide the ‘time is right,’ you will discontinue your meetings.
Sometimes just being able to express one’s anxieties about life to a non-judgmental listener is all that is needed to get through a bump in the road. That may be what the anxiety is about: simply put, an inability to get one’s life jump-started to the next step on the journey. All of the needs of care receivers need not be dire but whatever one’s need, it is important.
Utilizing a Stephen Minister is a free service that is donated by well-trained Christian peers who give their listening, confidential and non-judgmental ears. A Stephen Minister will not fix things, but will give you confidence in making decisions of your own. Stephen Ministry relationships have resulted in people working to change their own lives for the better. If you, or a friend, or a family member have an interest in changing your life, you might consider contacting the Stephen Ministry. It is strictly confidential!
Click any of the following names to get in touch with Stephen Ministry at Saint Michael via email.
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