Deacon George Jurenas talks about a time where he found joy in the halls of pain. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Healing power comes in many forms

By  Deacon George Jurenas, Catholic Register Special
  • April 3, 2017

A Catholic deacon’s ministry is usually found in one of three areas: hospitals, missions and prisons. For me, the blessing is to minister to the sick, their families and caregivers at a major hospital.

Now, every hospital is full of amazing stories and everyday miracles that have touched my heart and healed my soul over the years. The best are the ones where I have witnessed hope and salvation flourish in the place where fear and depression once grew.

My hospital ministry didn’t start off very well. I was clumsy, lost for words and feeling very inadequate, at least until I met John.

I was asked to meet with a patient from the psych ward. I found him with a smoke in one hand, a coffee in the other, outside the building. I was told to be careful, that he could be violent.

Not to worry. The man I met was shaking and frail, 30 years old and looking twice that age. He had been admitted after another drug overdose failed to end his life.

Soon John was pouring his heart out to me, describing a life of shame, violence and self-loathing. He had been sexually abused as a child by a close family friend and blamed himself for continually going back into his abuser’s arms. He was constantly fighting demons, struggling between contrary sexual attractions.

He had been in love with a woman years ago, but thought he was unworthy of it. In his anger, he would lash out, but he was mostly mad at himself.

Searching for words to comfort him, I remembered a story my father once told me.

“There once was a group of people walking down a road, when all of a sudden they spotted a hundred-dollar bill in the middle of that road. The wind picked it up and carried it away. All but two of the group chased after it. As they came upon the hundred, those at the rear spit on the bill knowing they could not have it. That act stopped half of the group from grabbing it. Just as the rest were about to fight over the bill, the wind picked up and blew it into an open septic tank.

“Everyone except for the oldest of the group refused to touch it. But the old man reached down into the septic tank and recovered the hundred-dollar bill. He gently washed it, smoothed out the wrinkles and dried it out. You see, the old man knew its inherent value. He knew that no matter how ripped or torn it became, no matter how damaged or vile, or how often it ended up in crap, he knew it never lost its original value.”

“I’m the hundred-dollar bill and God is the old man?” John asked.

“Yes,” I nodded. And then a big smile broke out across his face.

“Thank God I listened to that voice,” he said.

“What voice?” I asked.

“Not a real voice,” he assured me, explaining that something inside told him to reach out to someone today.

“I guess God in His own way used you to help me,” he said.

And that’s when I told him that God used him to help me. I had been reflecting for some time on whether or not hospital ministry was for me and I asked God for a sign.

John said, “So God used me to help you?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“He must like me then,” said John.

“He loves you,” I said.

A light came on. Something had changed for both of us. We both had a long way to go, but I knew things would never be the same for him, or for me.

That day, I learned that if you look hard enough, you will ultimately find joy, even in the halls of pain.

(Jurenas is a deacon at St. Joseph’s Parish in Streetsville, Ont., and a volunteer hospital chaplain.)

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