January 15, 2016

Mother’s life of kindness and mercy inspires daughter in her care for others

In her work at A Caring Place, Cathy Lamperski Dearing has helped Lucian Jones recall his days as a preacher by sharing the words from Psalm 122:1.  (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

In her work at A Caring Place, Cathy Lamperski Dearing has helped Lucian Jones recall his days as a preacher by sharing the words from Psalm 122:1. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

(Editor’s note: Pope Francis has declared a “Holy Year of Mercy” in the Church that continues through Nov. 20, 2016. As part of the “Year of Mercy,” The Criterion is inviting our readers to share their stories of how their lives have been graced by the mercy of God and other people—and how that mercy has made a difference. Here is the first in a continuing series of stories.)

By John Shaughnessy

As she shares the touching scene, Cathy Lamperski Dearing hopes to make a point about the immense power of a small act of mercy and kindness.

The scene happens regularly as Dearing and Lucian Jones take a walk together at A Caring Place, the Catholic Charities Indianapolis program that provides day care service for older adults—a program that’s housed in a few rooms at Fairview Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis.

Dearing is the physical therapist at A Caring Place, and one of the people she helps is Jones, a husband, a father, a military veteran and a former deacon of a church. He uses a cane to walk, and he has dementia.

“Every session, we go on long endurance walks,” says Dearing, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis. “Being housed inside a large church building, we walk from our space through the sanctuary. We always go to the back of the sanctuary where hanging on the wall is an engraved plaque with Psalm 122:1.”

The plaque reads, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord” (Ps 122:1).

“I read those words out loud to him,” Dearing notes. “He has significant language impairment because of his dementia, but he is able to repeat the words after I say them. He recites them back clearly, prayerfully. He sounds like a preacher again!

“So I am moved every time by the way he speaks those words with such depth and emotion. I feel I give him something back—of who he was in his life as a preacher, in his love for God and Scripture. And every single time we finish that passage with, ‘let us go into the house of the Lord’ [Ps 122:1], he always says, ‘Thank you.’ I think he’s saying ‘thank you’ to me and to God.”

In this Year of Mercy, Dearing also finds herself saying thanks—to the two people who have offered her the best examples of living a life of mercy.

‘A life of kindness, mercy and love’

“When I think about mercy, Jesus was the first person who came to mind,” she says.

“The way he lived, the way he died, was one act of mercy after another. We only know of those recorded in Scripture—healing the blind, forgiving sins, dying on the Cross. I think about all the small acts of mercy that Jesus must have performed in his life that were not recorded, that were not witnessed. And so I think about this aspect of mercy— the individual one-on-one encounters that happen where no one is watching.”

And that makes Dearing think of her mother.

“She constantly demonstrated small acts of kindness and mercy with great love.”

Dearing recalls how her mother would make a special dinner for her family of nine, fix an extra plate of food, and then drive to her godmother’s house to share the meal and a visit with a woman who was a shut-in and lived alone.

She also recalls how her mother and father were extraordinary ministers of holy Communion into their early 80s, bringing the sacrament to people who were homebound and in nursing homes.

“She always made it about the other person. Always,” Dearing says. “My mom was very aware of the mercy of Jesus in her life. Here is a story: When I took my mom to a retreat day, I brought my Bible, books to read, my journal, pencils and paper for poetry writing, and inspirational music. My mom brought herself.

“When we gathered in a prayerful space and sat down, I had all my wares with me while my mom just gazed up lovingly at the crucifix and silently entered into deep prayer. That is the example of prayer that I remember from my mom, and how out of her prayer life flowed her life of kindness, mercy and love.”

‘Their faith inspires my faith’

Dearing tries to follow her mother’s example—living life as a prayer.

“I wanted to emulate her in the way she lived,” Dearing says. “It was the primary reason I became a physical therapist. I felt called to a profession where I could show mercy and compassion because it was so integral to how I grew up, and who I was as a Catholic.

“The participants here at A Caring Place are all people of joy. We laugh and smile a lot. As I work with them individually to improve their strength, balance and safety, I demonstrate mercy through patience, active listening, affirmation, encouragement, respect and understanding. I feel the presence of God in these treatment sessions. This draws me closer to the person I am working with, and that in turn draws me closer to God.”

Dearing’s connections with the people she cares for show in the stories they share with her.

“They share joyful memories and some painful ones, and I listen,” says the mother of three. “I allow them to tell their stories, and their stories touch me deeply. In them, I recognize their acceptance of how life unfolded, accepting the good and the bad, and they entrust it all to God. Their faith inspires my faith. Their acceptance of God’s will helps me accept God’s will in my life. In many of the Gospel stories, Jesus saw people’s faith, and he was moved by it.”

Dearing is also moved by the families and caregivers of the people who come to A Caring Place.

“They have inspired me by the way they continually demonstrate unconditional support, care and mercy toward their loved ones. I know that much of what they do for their loved ones probably goes unseen and is unheralded. But our heavenly Father ‘who sees what is done in secret will reward them’ ” (Mt 6:4).

She stresses that approach of mercy and compassion when she teaches physical therapy students, viewing it as the foundation of every encounter with patients and their families.

It’s the same approach she hopes everyone will embrace during this extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy.

“My prayer during this Year of Mercy is that each one of us discovers how to actively show mercy in very concrete ways in our daily lives. Often it is in those small acts of mercy that we can make all the difference.

“We will come to recognize and discover that these small acts of mercy aren’t so small after all.”

(The Criterion continues to invite our readers to share their stories of how their lives have been graced by the mercy of God and other people—and how that mercy has made a difference. We are also seeking stories from our readers who have shown mercy and forgiveness to others—and how that act of mercy and forgiveness has made a difference to the person offering it. Please send your stories and responses to assistant editor John Shaughnessy by e-mail at jshaughnessy@archindy.org or by mail in care of The Criterion, 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46202. Please include your parish and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.)

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