I believe that the ministry of presence, this ministry of encounter, is one of the great gifts of our elder sisters in religious life. With quiet joy after decades of dynamic and faith-filled service, they remind me of the poem the New Collossus by Emma Lazarus (1883) that is cast in bronze at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
[They cry] with silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,These our sisters, walking each other home to heaven, also lend us their gift of a listening ear, a comforting word, a compassionate heart. Hearts formed through a lifetime of prayer, of service, and of compassionate encounter.
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"