EVERY SEMESTER I give a talk for Sister Ave Clark, O.P., and her Heart to Heart Ministry. I like to think that I do this to help Sister Ave with her marvelous ministry. However, I receive much more than I give. There are numerous ministries in the Brooklyn Diocese, and many people working very hard to help people. Sister Ave’s ministry, I think, is special.
A book written by Sister Ave has just been published. Its title is “Arthur: Thank You for Being Jesus’ Love” (2017, pp. 209). The following is from the book’s dedication page: “This book is dedicated to all people with special needs who teach us to always hope and to persevere, to believe in one’s innate goodness and to celebrate the sacred gift of life in all its dignity and humanity.
“‘Be who you were created to be and you will set the world on fire.’ (St. Catherine of Sienna)”
Healing Many Hearts
I think the easiest and most direct way to give a sense of Sister Ave’s apostolate is to reproduce a page at the beginning of the book, where Sister Ave listed some problems and difficulties that Heart to Heart Ministry was created to meet and some of its programs. They are:
Rachel Prayer Hour: for post-abortion syndrome
Elizabeth Ministry: for parents who have lost a child
Caring Hearts: for people with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
Samaritan Hearts: for victims of tragic crimes
SOS: for survivors of suicide
Roses: for survivors of abuse/violence/domestic violence
ACOA: for adult children of alcoholics
Caritas: for families with children and adults with disability
Hearts Afire: domestic violence sessions (individual)
Spiritual Direction: open your heart (individual)
Pastoral Prayerline: a listening heart
Heart to Heart Prayer Chats: across the country
Following the list are these words: “Only the wings of Love and Compassion can lift and carry us…”
On the evenings each year that I give my talks, I usually focus on some aspect of love and emphasize the tremendous mystery of God’s love for each of us, indeed for every person in the world. I stress that we don’t have to merit or win this love, but that it is a complete gift from God. Then Sister Ave tells some stories from her experiences with Heart to Heart Ministry.
As I listen to her anecdotes, I often wonder to myself if these are actual experiences she’s had. It is only my own self-centeredness that causes me to wonder. Sister Ave’s entire life is filled with dramatic, touching stories about people she has met and to whom she has given encouragement and love. Her new book is filled with anecdotes that are inspiring.
Defined Life by Faith
The following is Sister Ave’s introduction of Arthur to the reader:
“Very early in life, Arthur was diagnosed with a mental illness called schizophrenia. With his gentle nature Arthur would get up every day and set out to live his life well even amidst difficulties and struggles. He was very aware of his struggles and at times shared with me how weary he was feeling. However, he chose to define his life not by his limitations but rather by his wonderful Faith life that would be for Arthur a beautiful light of hope that he would share with others.
“One special gift Arthur shared with me was how he was so appreciative, ever so grateful for any act of kindness extended to him: a simple gesture of welcome, a car ride home, a gift card to Dunkin Donuts, or a phone call chat … all received with his graciousness of spirit and his sincere words saying, ‘Thank you for being Jesus’ love for me.’” (p. 20)
Sister Ave reports how Arthur would go to great lengths when he wanted to send her a greeting card. One Christmas he took seven buses to different stores trying to find a special Christmas card for her. The last card she received from him was Easter Monday, 2017. Arthur had called Sister Ave and told her that an Easter card he sent her might arrive a little late because he did not mail it until Holy Thursday. She writes the following about receiving Arthur’s last card:
“His ending words I will cherish forever… ‘You as an O.P. (Order of Preachers-Dominican) are made by Christ and molded as an angel for me…’ I sat quietly with tears and great happiness thinking of how Arthur somehow finds these special cards. Then the phone rang … I was told Arthur passed away early in the morning. It was Easter time and I had a beautiful card from Arthur.” (p. 29)
If you buy and read this book, you will not only be inspired, but you will also be supporting and spreading Heart to Heart Ministry.
Editor’s Note: Sister Ave’s book is available by calling 718-428-2471 or emailing Pearlbud7@aol.com.
Father Lauder is a philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica, and author of “Pope Francis’ Profound Personalism and Poverty” (Resurrection Press).