Life as Ministry w/ Robin Dysard
On this election day (last Tuesday), I skim the local news sites for information on the election taking place, and I’m reminded (by Rick Scott), that this election – like every other – is about jobs, and education… and half a dozen other buzzwords that mean nothing in the context they’re being used. The Naples Republican claims 620,000 jobs have been created during his time in office while 832,000 people lost their jobs during Democratic candidate former Gov. Charlie Crist’s tenure. This probably had nothing to do with the natural cycle of the recession that started less than a year after Crist took office, but that’s neither here nor there. The good news is that 620,000 people have new opportunities to make money, feed their families, give to their Church, and buy new Apple products, to avoid suffering the indignity of the iPhone 4S.
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Although the function of at least 99% of those jobs will not be addressing the spiritual needs of anyone nearby, each one is an opportunity to do some marginal evangelization.
I’d like to believe that God doesn’t much care what we do for a living (so long as it’s honest and decent), and so if we’re going to be engaged in an activity for 8+ hours per day, why don’t we do the Catholic Thing, and introduce people to Jesus. But is that the Catholic thing? Because most of the people we stumble across in life, the ones aggressively trying to evangelize us and make sure we’re saved, are Protestants (and Jehovah’s Witnesses, even more so). I’ve never been cornered at the Mall by a Catholic, and a priest has never arbitrarily knocked on my door for a visit, but maybe it’s time Catholics step up their game.
Let’s face it, everywhere we go, people are hurting. Whether we sell insurance, mow lawns, or do taxes, we’re dealing with people that could use more love in their lives. Robin Dysard happens to be a physical therapist. She works in home health, so she’s in and out people’s homes who are, by definition, homebound. Without a vibrant and active support system, homebound people suffer from loneliness, and with that, depression. These become the forgotten externalities of a health condition that may seem as mundane as, say, a broken hip. Robin finds small ways to show them her faith. She doesn’t “cram” religion down their throat. She doesn’t try to save them (or assume they need saving). She does the Catholic Thing. She treats them with love and respect, and when asked, she attributes her gentle way of being to her relationship with God. As a volunteer board member at Verity Pregnancy Center, she’s also leading a life of deliberate service to some of the most vulnerable people in society – the unborn. I sat down (we stood, really) with Robin Dysard and we talked about her journey in, away from, and back to the Catholic faith, and what she’s been up to in the mean time. These were some of her answers.
Damian: So you are a Catholic “revert”, and you also sit on the board of Verity – a crisis pregnancy center. Which one do you want to talk about first?
Robin Dysard: I think I’ll talk about being a Catholic revert. It’s a big part of my identity. I was raised Catholic, and I left when I was young because it didn’t really mean anything to me. I was just sitting in the pew, and that was probably a result of ineffective catechesis as a child. But later, I was actually evangelized by another Catholic (when coming back), and I never realized what I had left. I’d probably thought that Jesus founded the Protestant Church. I just had no idea. A lot of people are unaware of the writings of the founding Church Fathers, such as Ignatius of Antioch. It’s really an exciting thing – being a Catholic, and I love being a part of the Faith Education committee here.
DH: Yes, I do see your name in and around the Church… What is it you do in that role?
RD: I work with a team called Faith Alive, and we look at different programs to bring to the Church to educate adults. What I really love is the heart of the people on the committee. We just finished reading the book Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell, and in it, she explains that a lot of people are leaving the Catholic Church because their spiritual needs are not being met. They end up going to protestant churches which are a completely different atmosphere. They really concentrate on forming a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, so that’s what we’re working on right now.
DH: Well that’s their tagline, right? “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” And a lot of Catholics are like you. Raised Catholic and maybe they fell away, but they’re back, and certainly they’ve been approached at the mall by these evangelizers. “Are you saved?” And you’ve got to think, I feel good today… maybe I have been? Tell me what that means – to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Did you get that when you were in that community?
RD: I did, actually, but over time I lost that closeness I had when I first got “saved”, and that was probably my fault. But I still do believe that it’s very important for people to develop an active prayer life and work on a deeper relationship with God. So I’m really excited to help start a group like that, so we can meet the needs of people seeking a deeper relationship.
DH: Certainly there are lots of people that are in need of that, whether or not they pursue it is another story, but more so than in most places, this pregnancy center must serve people in that type of situation. We all know “the deal”, right? Those girls are scared, they’re confused, and they need resources of all types. Why do you choose to serve young women in those situations, rather than, say, the humane society?
RD: That’s a great question. I feel called to that because I have a personal experience related to that ministry, and I think most women are afraid to talk about it openly. There’s a lot of shame involved in crisis pregnancy, but we all need to know the love of God. All people make mistakes when they’re young, but Verity is there to help these women make the right choices and get truthful information – not the type of information they’d get at Planned Parenthood.
DH: So tell me what happens when a girl comes in?
RD: On the first visit they fill out forms and are interviewed, they will have a pregnancy test, and they will meet with a counselor. They may not necessarily have an ultrasound the first visit but if they are abortion vulnerable we try to get them to have an ultrasound that visit; seeing life makes a big difference in these women’s lives.
DH: Okay, so you don’t “work” for Verity, can I ask what you do with your life? You have bills and stuff, right?
RD: Haha. I just give those to my husband. But seriously, I’m a physical therapist, and I do home health care, so that in itself is its own ministry.
DH: Right, because loneliness and the whole shut-in epidemic is huge. What is that like, walking into someone’s home who is literally dying of loneliness?
RD: Any kind of illness causes depression. Aging causes depression, so if I can reach them in any way… Sometimes I just talk about my Church to them and it will spark a fire.
DH: Knowing about this epidemic, you feel helpless, right? We don’t know where they are actually located. We don’t know what their life is like. We don’t know if their needs are met…
RD: I just do what I can to reach them. You sort of get a gauge of their faith when you go into their house. If you see nothing religious, like a crucifix or an image of Mary, you sort of tread lightly. I will still say “God bless you”, or “I will pray for you”, but I stop there. The people I see are hurting though, and it’s a great opportunity to reach them.
Verity is holding a Golf Marathon at Pelican Preserve Country Club. September 22nd, it’s a full day of golf. Golfers will receive free lessons throughout the day. Jim Cole – who played on the PGA tour – will be there to mentor the golfers. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. Monetary donations are accepted, as well as Golfer Sponsorships. Visit Verity’s website for more information http://supportverity.com.