Listening House director puts work in perspective via reflection

| August 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

Rosemarie Reger-Rumsey

Rosemarie Reger-Rumsey

Executive director, Listening House of St. Paul

Age: 66
Parish: Assumption, St. Paul
Spouse: Tim
Volunteer activities: Lector and eucharistic minister at Assumption, Homeless Advisory Board, elected member of District 17 Council (recently retired); RUSH, a committee focused on long-term unsheltered adults
Education: Anoka Ramsey Community College: Associates in Nursing (RN) 1972. University of Minnesota, Family Social Science 1980

Q: What does leading with faith mean to you?

A: To lead with faith is to honor the simple, profound command: “Love one another as I loved you.” It is recognizing I am a “worker,” not a “master builder,” as Archbishop Oscar Romero reminded us. It is being willing to ask the divine for a sense of direction during stress or when disappointed. It is forgiving others and myself.

Q: How do you concretely apply your faith and Catholic values at work?

A: Recognize the dignity of colleagues, volunteers and the guests we serve by believing in and honestly living the words of Thomas Merton: “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.”

Q: Describe a time when applying your faith at work really made a difference.

A: Mary, a Listening House guest I’d known for many years, was diagnosed with advanced cancer that could not be treated. She asked me to attend a “family conference” with hospital staff where she retreated into herself and accused staff of wanting her to die. I quietly asked Mary how much of her story I could tell the medical team, and she remarked, “Whatever you think.” Staff and I moved to a private room and they listened carefully about Mary’s journey. On my walk back to work, I remembered and called her old case manager to help reunite her with the children she had placed for adoption 11 years earlier. The Spiritual Care Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital transferred her to Pillars Hospice on a grant, and with her permission I called her own adoptive family after their near two-decade estrangement.

The next day her family arrived with roses, her favorite foods and a great deal of love. Days later she passed peacefully. Her father and I stood next to one another at Mary’s graveside when he remarked, “We never stopped loving Mary; we just wanted her to change.”

Prayers and reflection helped me to not only remember a case manager of 25 years past, but aided my decision-making each step of the way. Thirteen years later, I continue to pray the right decisions were made — not just for Mary, but for her children, father and siblings.

Q: Who or what has been most inspirational to you in bringing your faith to the marketplace?

A: As a young nurse, I sat complaining to my father about the mother of a patient who seemed ungrateful. He listened silently and then asked, “Is that why you do this work; for the thanks? If that’s the case, maybe you need to find another line of work.” I understood what he said to me and to this day I challenge myself and my motives in every relationship by asking myself, “Why are you doing this?”A favorite line in Archbishop Romero’s reflection is: “[Our work] may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.” There have been many lessons learned through parenting and through my work which have proven to me there comes a point when it’s necessary to stop talking, stop doing, get out of the way and let grace enter. I have witnessed some beautiful moments and triumphs when I heed these words.

Q: In what specific ways have you experienced God’s presence in your workplace?

A: A natural tension in social service, especially in one’s early career, is to understand we are not change makers. Change comes from within and the work is always on the person making changes. Years ago, a guest approached me before entering a chemical treatment program; it was his seventh time trying to get sober. I photocopied a poem about courage for him, suggested he post it in his room and repeat it each day. Three years later, he visited me. He was 20 months into recovery, having relapsed for a short time. As we spoke, he pulled a wrinkled paper with fading print out of his pocket and remarked, “I still say this every morning; it’s a prayer for me.” The image of the Good Shepherd, tucking a lamb under his chin, came to my mind. My belief is that I was given direction to share the poem, and he stands shoulder to shoulder with this man as he lives day by day.

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Category: Leading With Faith