The Ministry of Accompaniment
By Br. Faris Najor, OFM Capuchin
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16).
This passage from the letter of James has driven me to be part of the various ministries of the Detroit Capuchin Franciscans. It reminds me to pay attention to various aspects of God’s creation that are not limited to the spiritual. God created the body, soul, brain, personality, emotions, and social surroundings that include nature and other people around us. This passage reminds me to pay attention to EVERYTHING God created. With my own limits and capabilities, I achieve this vision by developing the art of doing good for people in need.
“How do I serve?” “How do I give back?” These are the top two questions I hear from individuals who are looking to help others. Capuchin ministries offer many ways to help. Many people donate money or goods. Others donate their time by serving as volunteers. Volunteering varies from serving food to our guests at one of the soup kitchens, planting vegetables in the Earthworks garden, or folding clothing at the Capuchin Services Center. Still others pray for the ones in need. All of these various actions of doing good are viable and important. However, the ministry I want to emphasize on is the ministry of accompaniment.
According to the spirituality of Saint Theresa of the Little Flower, showing simple acts of love can mean the world to others. The ministry of accompaniment is this simple act of love that can have major impacts on our volunteers and the guests. This is what the ministry might mean: Go to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, grab a tray of food, sit at a table with other guests, enjoy a delicious meal, and have a regular conversation with other guests. Be assured that the food we serve is excellently prepared by our awesome kitchen staff.
The ministry of accompaniment is about simple good conversation and listening. Talk about sports, weather, family, and current events or news. Getting to know each other at a meal can peel off assumptions and stigmas from both sides. If personal conversation happens, then let it be that you are getting to know each other’s story without judgement. When speaking, use loving words that do not judge, but have compassion and understanding. Just listen and learn that we all are human beings who have our own personalities, emotions, feelings, and experiences. Our race, gender, and beliefs don’t matter. We just need to look at each other as we are...which is a God’s child. And according to St. James, We are all brothers and sisters. We are all equal in dignity and humanity in the eyes of God.
There are several outcomes from this simple ministry. One is peeling off stigmas and assumptions about each other. Having a good simple conversation at a meal can help clear many misconceptions. Another outcome is learning how to help others in need in the community of Detroit. All of our Capuchin ministries started because of a need. I would not wake up and say, “I feel like opening a soup kitchen in West Bloomfield”, because there is little need for it. The Capuchin ministries started by listening to the needs of our guests. The shower program, Reaching Our Potential Everyday program, Earthworks organic farming, Rosa Parks children tutoring and art therapy program, and many other Capuchin ministries started because we sat with the guests at the table and we listened. Can you imagine what you can do because you have a meal and a good conversation with a guest?
Inspired by St. James’ letter, I invite you to reflect on today’s context and ask, “Suppose a brother or a sister is hungry, or without clothes, or depressed, or sick, or sad, or facing economic, social and/or political injustice. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and be well,’ but does nothing about their needs, what good is it?” There are various ways of doing a good deed, such as donation, volunteering, and praying. However, pray about the ministry of accompaniment and see if you are called for it.