Story and Photos By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald
Every Thursday afternoon in the chapel of Wynhoven Healthcare Center, Ginny Dufrene can be found bringing the week’s Gospel to life for residents and staff. She leads a new, hour-long “Come, Lord Jesus” (CLJ) Bible study.
“Should we love everybody?” Dufrene asked the eight or so gathered one recent week after reading the Gospel of John 14:13-17, “I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you.”
“How do we love one another right here in this facility?” asked Dufrene, a former 35-year school teacher and administrator who is the area “Come, Lord Jesus” coordinator.
“You say hello,” one resident said. “You give to the hungry or to the St. Anthony poor box,” said another. “If you see someone having trouble getting around, you help them,” said yet another.
“What can be done here on a daily basis for residents,” Dufrene queried and answered, “Pray for one another, forgive each other. Talk to others and let them know they are loved.
“How do we know that Jesus didn’t abandon us? Through his words, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’”
Dufrene asked if they could lay down their life for someone they didn’t know.
“That’s what Jesus did,” she said. “What great love Jesus has for all of us. When Jesus said love one another as I have love you, that’s deep love.”
Jesus loved everyone, even those who were cruel to him.
“We have to have mercy on the not-so-desirable because God has mercy on them.”
After discussing the Gospel, they share what they learned from the current passage.
Staffer Magdalene Yanguba popped in on her day off to participate. The Bible passage had her thinking how “God’s love is unconditional for each and every one of us. We should love one another no matter their condition or the risk.”
Staffer Joy Amaliri said sharing the Gospel is part of her Catholic faith. “I come to say thank you for all God is doing for us.”
Program at Wynhoven
Dufrene said she worked with Deacon Dan Reynolds, pastoral care director at Wynhoven, to create an abbreviated version of “Come, Lord Jesus” here to engage elderly residents with various illnesses. The program had to fit in residents’ appoinments and activities and not be burdensome with homework.
“God planted this idea in my mind,” Dufrene, an Immaculate Conception parishioner, said. “Who, more than they, would need something like this? It’s a program that gives each and every member what they need to better know Jesus and his love for them and how to live this every day.”
Deacon Reynolds said the Wynhoven “Come, Lord Jesus” is structured for participation as the Bible is explored through only six steps: an opening song, prayers and thanksgiving, Scripture reading and discussion, faith witnessed over the past week, saying the “Our Father” together and a concluding acclamation. Sharing among residents often leads to interpretations of a Bible passage that they might not have thought of on their own.
“We concentrate on the Gospel, “Deacon Reynolds said. “They absolutely love having the Bible study in a structured format. We might have taken out some of the steps (of the original program), but kept the necessary steps to make it impactful.”
After the reading, Dufrene asks them if they witnessed faith over the past week. Several mentioned how an aide at Wynhoven goes above and beyond her duties to help the residents.
“You always look for Jesus in other people,” she said.
Father Conley Bertrand founded “Come, Lord Jesus” in Lafayette as a 12-step program, Dufrene said. It includes an opening song, prayer, Scripture and discussion, spiritual/doctrinal reading and discussion, Scripture passage read together, a witnessing of faith by members, member report, “Our Father” prayed together and a concluding acclamation. Partipants do homework, but that is not required of Wynhoven residents. Neither is using the workbook, since it it too bulky for residents to handle. Dufrene said the weekly Gospel reading is printed for the residents, and she condenses the questions suggested by Father Bertrand to those “I feel will touch them. The beautiful part of the program is that they’ve heard the Gospel and picked it apart through questions, and then they go to Mass and it becomes more meaningful and powerful to them.”
Dufrene thinks it is the only six-step program of the 53 or so currently active groups in the New Orleans area.
Dufrene said she’s seen a transformation in group participants. It also has changed her life since joining the program approximately five years ago, first as a participant and now as now a facilitator.
“We don’t teach. We are on the same journey as everyone in the group,” she said. “We are a group of people who strive to know Jesus and go deeper in Scripture with the words he left for us – to know God’s news in what we read each week and how to share the Gospel with others. … I know I see God more and more in situations and people, and I can feel him working through me and want to keep doing this more and more for his glory.”
Every week, Deacon Reynolds, who is a parishioner at St. Joan of Arc in LaPlace, loves to come to class and ask the residents how closely a priest’s or deacon’s explanation of the Gospel was to their discussion. Sometimes, they say, it’s spot on. Othertimes, they laugh about how far off it was.
“I am very pleased by the way this is turning out,” Deacon Reynolds said. He hopes to take over the program soon from Dufrene.
“I love it and enjoy it,” said Wynhoven resident Jennie Zelaya. “Hearing the Bible stories helps me with my faith.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.