A Reflection by Guest House Staff Member
When I began working at Guest House, I knew it was an addiction treatment center for Catholic clergy and religious. I heard the words: “Saving Lives, Saving Vocations and Saving Catholic Communities.” These words explain some of the work at Guest House, but they touch on only a part of this special ministry. After attending my first Departure Mass, I began to understand the depth of this ministry. A Departure Mass is celebrated in honor of a client who completes treatment and is in recovery…and is about to continue his/her recovery beyond Guest House. Family, friends and colleagues of the client and staff of Guest House are invited to attend and support the person who is leaving.
The priests typically celebrate their own Departure Masses and those of other men religious. Homilies are a combination of a reflection on the Scripture readings and culminated thoughts on their life, their time at Guest House and/or their relationship with God. Their homilies are more than Sunday Liturgy powerful – they touch the soul in a special way. The heartfelt words resonate with everyone, and the hymn selections wrap the message with God’s ever-present love. Prior to the Mass, the departee celebrates lunch with those who were an immediate part of his journey, offering gratitude and parting thoughts. These Departure Masses uplift and inspire and fill my heart (and often my eyes) with joy.
The Sisters’ Departure Masses are celebrated by our chaplain or another priest who knows the Sisters well. Meaningful homilies and selected hymns create a grace-filled celebration of each sister’s journey. Symbolic of this journey is the statue in the women’s treatment center called “Recovering,” which is the image of a woman moving forward and reaching up to God. At the base of the statue are small rocks left at Guest House by each departing Sister. On her rock she writes something she wishes to leave behind. The Sister shares candidly at the end of Mass what her rock symbolizes and why she leaves it. The celebration continues at a lunch with words shared by the Sister’s counselor, therapist, community leader and/or family member and the Sister herself. A medallion is passed among all in attendance, and each person “infuses” it with prayers and good wishes. The lunch concludes with everyone standing, extending their hands in a blessing gesture over the Sister, and singing a simple and mighty prayer (twice): May the blessing of the Lord be upon you. We bless you in the name of the Lord. This blessing is one of the most faith-fueling times I have ever experienced, and it fills me with an overflowing spirit.
Departure Masses remind me why I do what I do – why we, together, do what we do. They underscore the value of the work at Guest House. I am made better each time I attend a Departure; but more importantly, my presence impacts the one who is leaving. It is a visual display of my support, and I send off our priests and religious with a “travel bag” full of encouragement and rejoicing. I think we all wish our loved ones well when they begin a new journey in life. Though not everyone who supports Guest House has the opportunity to witness a Departure, everyone contributes to this joy of recovery. Our departees are indebted to family, community, clients, alumni, staff, benefactors and God – it is this partnership that yields our good work.
At Guest House, we save lives and vocations and strengthen Catholic communities, but what we really do is heal, give hope, renew and empower – we strengthen and deepen faith in God – we help others become the best they have ever been – the best priests, deacons, Brothers, Sisters and shepherds of Jesus Christ – we build! And we ALL do this together.