Consultant assists parishes in healing ministry
Bishop's Appeal helps fund services provided to parishes
Fifth in a series on the Bishop's Appeal
By Linda DeVries
What: Bishop's Appeal, the Green Bay Diocese's annual fund-raiser to support diocesan programs and services offered to parishes and individuals.
Where: All parishes in the diocese.
When: Right now.
How: Making a cash, check or pledge donation. Materials have been sent to homes and also are available through parishes.
Theme: Take a Step in Faith.
Target: $4.6 million.
More information: Click here.
Helping parishes to provide healing and help to those in need brings joy to Mary Sherman, the Green
Bay Diocese's consultant for pastoral care.
"There is so much joy in being able to offer support to those who want to bring new life into their
parishes by developing new care ministries or expanding ministries they already have in place," said
Sherman, whose work is funded 90% by the annual Bishop's Appeal. The remainder comes from special
donations to programs and fees charged for workshops and programs.
"The gospel is filled with stories about the healing ministry of Jesus," she said, "and I think this goes to
the heart of all pastoral care ministries -- offering personal support and understanding to people we
encounter in our daily lives at their times of joy, need, or crisis. We are all called to share God's healing
love with each other through a network of people, resources, and programs. In these ways we can reach
out to those who are grieving, those going through separation or divorce, the elderly, the pre-born,
someone with a recent medical diagnosis, the terminally ill, the incarcerated, or those experiencing
transitions in their lives.
"Every single day is different from the one before," she added. "One day I'm on the phone most of the
time; the next, I'm visiting a parish to exchange ideas and concerns or doing a workshop to enrich that
Sherman's responsibilities include training, consultation, and advocacy for the following ministries:
BeFrienders/Stephen Ministry. This one-to-one listening ministry offers support at transition times in
people's lives, when they face difficulties or challenging situations. Sherman trains ministry coordinators
in each parish, often through workshops, and continues as a resource for them. These coordinators train
care-givers and then match the care-givers with care-receivers. Approximately one-fourth of parishes in
the diocese have this ministry in place.
Bereavement Ministry. Parishes offer sympathy and care, both spiritually and emotionally, to those
who have lost a loved one. Support groups give the grieving the opportunity to meet with others who are
Commissioned Ministry -- Pastoral Care Track. Sherman acts as advisor to the students in this track in
the diocese's Commissioned Ministry Program, which trains lay people to meet a variety of needs in
parishes. Through periodic reviews and on-site visits, she helps students assess their strengths and
limitations for Pastoral Ministry and apply what they learn in the classroom to their ministry.
Parish Nurses. The ministry of the parish nurse is a relatively new in the diocese. So far 10-15% of the
parishes have their own nurses on staff. The nurses help parishes develop a health-and-wellness ministry
that addresses the needs of the whole person -- mind, body, and spirit. Sherman's role is to provide a
structural framework for this ministry, networking opportunities, and ongoing support to parish nurses
throughout the diocese.
Prison Ministry. A restorative justice model is a foundation of the diocese's prison ministry. "We
believe that the impact of crime does not affect just one individual but the entire community," Sherman
said. "We try to address one of the basic causes of crime -- a lack of community among human beings.
As Christians, it is our call to model our actions and community on Jesus. Like it says in the bishops'
statement, we're to 'invite each person, victim, and wrongdoer to restore their belief in a human family
that is larger than they are but incomplete without them.' Prison ministry touches my heart, being able to
nurture an understanding of God's light and love to many who feel they have been forgotten."
Respect Life. Uses a consistent ethic of life in cooperation with the Respect Life Pastoral Plan of the
U.S. Catholic bishops. "It is our mission," she said, "to affirm that each life is sacred, and thus each
person should be treated with dignity and respect at all times and under all conditions."
Single Again. Promotes healing and recovery for those who have experienced divorce, separation, or
loss through death of a significant relationship in their lives. As diocesan liaison, Sherman oversees
Beginning Experience, a program designed to bring together widowed, separated, and divorced
individuals for a weekend to re-evaluate themselves and their lives and move on to the future with
Sherman's background has prepared her well for her position. She is a state-certified independent
clinical social worker, as well as a state-certified marriage and family therapist. She completed a
two-year religious education coordinator program through the diocesan Department of Total Catholic
Education. She was high school religious education coordinator at St. Bernard Parish in Green Bay,
family life director and counselor at Nativity Parish in Green Bay, and a social worker with Catholic
Charities for more than 10 years.
Sherman graduated from Holy Name High School in Escanaba, Mich., then received a bachelor's degree
from Northern Michigan University and a master's from UW-Milwaukee. She lives in Bellevue with her
husband of 33 years and her 23-year-old daughter.
Sherman says she is most impressed with "the enthusiasm of our lay leadership, the energy of the
volunteers who coordinate many of these programs, and the courage that many leaders have in moving
through and beyond the pain of their own personal experiences to reach out to others who are
experiencing similar losses. I appreciate being able to function as a listening support to parish personnel
or volunteers, so they can process the powerful emotions they feel in being present to others, and also to
celebrate successes as people develop and implement new pastoral care programs."