Learning to listen while giving support

BeFriender Ministry to offer six-session workshop

Photo by Jody Isaackson BeFriender certified leaders Marcia Schroeder, Janet Hamner, Karen Hurst and Sister Lenore Paschke pose at the head of their training center with a poster of the core principles of the BeFriender program. Hamner, Hurst and Paschke will be conducting a six-session BeFriender training workshop in February-March to help volunteers develop their compassionate listening skills.

MARSHALL — Learning to listen is one of the key elements in success, especially in helping others handle loss, grief or disabilities.

These and other life circumstances such as relocation, job loss/retirement, family challenges, isolation, illness, stress of caregiving, being homebound and being in a care facility will be addressed in an upcoming workshop.

Benedictine Sister Lenore Paschke of Marshall is working with other women of various faiths to train community members in a program called Preparedness and Practices, which often leads participants into the BeFriender Ministry, of which she and other volunteers are a part.

“Our six-session workshop will meet on three Thursdays from 1:30-4:30 (or 6-9 p.m., depending on participants’ preference and on three Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon, Feb. 15 through March 3,” Paschke said.

The location will be in the lower level of a home at 1202 Parkside Drive where there is a spacious meeting place and room for breakout sessions.

The program is non-denomination and emphasizes ecumenical participation, Paschke said.

They will be following the ecumenical BeFriender Ministry course on Preparedness and Practices, she said, which offers many opportunities for personal growth that can deepen relationships with spouse, family and friends. This training is a national program started at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul and Minneapolis, under Pastoral Ministry and became popular in parishes, spreading across the whole country.

The BeFriender Ministry was developed by Barb Schwery who still conducts volunteer training programs in the Twin Cities area.

BeFriender Ministry volunteers are guided by these core principles: 1. God is present, 2. Caring, not curing, 3. Being a nonjudgemental presence and 4. Active listening. Session leaders have clerical-grade manuals from which they teach and each participant, including leaders, will receive a corresponding workbook.

The workshop is limited to eight participants and is open to persons from all walks of life.

“Smaller groups seem to interact better,” Paschke said. “Workshop goals include coming to a broader awareness of our own God-given, Spirit-led strengths, learning to listen with compassion and to give support to each other. We learn to be emotionally open to those who need us. Sometimes that’s all people need is to be heard,” certified leader Karen Hurst said.

The workshops are offered once a year with the option to continue in the program for an entire year as volunteer BeFrienders. However, this is the first time certification training is being offered in Marshall, Paschke said.

Volunteer BeFrienders meet monthly for additional training and support as well as using their newly honed skills to better communicate with those in need of their listening skills.

This workshop is to be conducted by three certified leaders, Paschke, Hurst and Janet Hamner. Paschke has led training for three previous years while Hurst and Hamer have one teaching workshop under their belts.

Paschke works part time at the Southwest Minnesota State University Campus Religious Center and has served in church offices in the past. She received her training in Minneapolis directly from Schwery.

“Adults gain more from different leaders,” Hamner, a Lutheran, said. She received her training in Owatonna.

Hurst, a Methodist, received her BeFriender leadership training in Iowa and likes the fact that they “work on our personal attitudes toward traumatic life events before we use our listening skills (for those in need).”

For more information or to register for the class, registration fee ($50) call Paschke at 507-337-0113.

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