Good Samaritans make every moment matter

By  Fr. Yaw Acheampong
  • April 5, 2024

“Take care of him, and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend”
(Luke 10:35)

On one cold evening, I made my usual visit to the hospital chapel to reflect on the day’s events in my ministry. It was a challenging day full of visits with questions about faith, life, and death. I was called to support a couple of bereaved families.

During my reflection, I recognized that despite the pain and the suffering in a hospital, the day was full of generosity from staff and visitors. I recollected the different ways that staff and visitors had cared for the sick. I encountered some visitors who had braved the cold weather, and some who had travelled far distances to come and spend time with their loved ones. I also noticed the dedication and the hard work of the staff.

Their generous actions reminded me of those of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). In his encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis wrote this about the parable of the Good Samaritan: “Jesus trusts in the best of the human spirit; with this parable he encourages us to persevere in love, to restore dignity to the suffering and to build a society worthy of the name.”  It is in the best of the human spirit that in Canada we have millions of people who as volunteers share their time, talent, and treasure to care for the needy in our communities. 

This year we celebrate National Volunteer Week from April 14 to 20 with the theme “Every Moment Matters.” It is a week in which we celebrate “the importance of every volunteer in the sharing of time, skills, empathy and creativity to the wellbeing of our communities.”

In the Christian faith tradition, volunteers are also referred to as “stewards.” In sharing their God-given gifts of time, talent and treasure in their communities, stewards live the Gospel-based stewardship way of life taught by Jesus as a discipleship way of life. In our parish communities, volunteers serve in different ministries such as preparing children to celebrate the sacraments, singing in the choir, assisting at Mass, organizing social activities and participating in outreach programs. Volunteers help build parish communities and their actions can transform communities into communities of vitality, caring and love.

At St. Michael’s Hospital, there is a department of volunteer services in which volunteers offer various services to support the community. Identified in green vests, volunteers direct and escort visitors to the patients and to the clinics, they visit patients to offer them assistance with their needs and they help run the hospital shop. In the profile of some of the long serving volunteers at the hospital, one volunteer wrote: “Patients just need somebody paying attention and being kind to them, and that’s true across the board.”

The Good Samaritan is the story of a person who committed to caring for an unknown dying person. It is a story of goodness, hope, and life. It is a story of love for the neighbour. Everyday, the spirit of the Good Samaritan comes alive in the hospital community through the selfless actions of volunteers, staff, and visitors. I remember a visit with an elderly patient Margaret. When I gave Holy Communion to Margaret, I noticed her husband, Joseph whom I had met on my previous visits, was not present. Margaret told me Joseph had some problems with his walker. I learned for the first time that Joseph had been commuting with a walker from the couple’s home in the northern part of the city every day to visit his wife. Before I left the room, the phone rang. Joseph was telling Margaret he was on his way to the hospital. 

As we show our appreciation to volunteers, we are reminded to develop an attitude like the Good Samaritan’s: one of selflessness and caring for those in need. Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad) encourages every Christian to live generously and allow God’s gift to be shown in our concern for our brothers and sisters. Today, the Good Samaritan offers us a model of caring for each other. Volunteers bring goodness, hope and life to our communities. It is God’s love that is reflected in the actions of the volunteers.

(Fr. Yaw Acheampong is priest-chaplain, St Michael’s Hospitalin Toronto.)