Renaming Ceremonies: a Call to Vocation and Ministry

What's in a name? A lot, as we learn from Catholic Social Services. 

Over the last year, CSS has held a series of ceremonies to rename its group homes and offices across the Archdiocese with the names of saints. The renaming ceremonies are part of the agency’s ongoing effort to reaffirm its Catholic identity and express more accurately the identity of its ministries. Staff members at each of the group homes chose a saint that resonated closely with the staff and the residents in their care. (Pictured above is a celebration after a ceremony in Wainwright.)

Donald Bramfield, Program Manager for the East Central Region of Catholic Social Services, found that the ceremonies marked something much more profound than a simple name change; they provided a real focus on the call to vocation and ministry. 

"Both staff and the residents said the ceremonies reaffirmed that there is something unique and special that transpires within the walls of the homes where the residents live and the staff do their work," he wrote in a reflection on his experiences in Wetaskiwin and Camrose. "In addition, the ceremonies were a declaration to others about why we do what we do, and who we are doing it for."

Donald's full reflection text is provided below, courtesy of CSS:

Twelve Renaming Ceremonies were held over a period of eight months from April to December in 2016.  Both staff and the residents said the ceremonies re-affirmed that there is something unique and special that transpires within the walls of the homes where the residents live and the staff do their work. In addition, the ceremonies were a declaration to others about why we do what we do, and who we are doing it for. 

The staff embraced the idea that they are not just doing a job, where you work at program that is named after an accounting code. Several staff stated “It’s not just a place to come and work and do your job -- people aren’t just numbers. There’s meaning behind it.”

Each celebration was unique, and a number of people put in many extra hours of work and demonstrated their creativity. The ceremonies really did take a life of their own. For example, at St. Andre House, the staff bought anointed oil from the saint’s rectory, and the residents made crosses that were hung on the wall. At Trinity House, the staff baked cakes and that were shaped like a cross and the Bible. At St. Michael, a resident sang and played a Christmas carol on his keyboard. At Corinthian House, the staff and residents made their own shirts, along with a large poster of Saint Paul. There are more examples of the heartfelt desire to make the ceremonies memorable; these are but a few.

The level of commitment to make the ceremonies meaningful and special was inspiring, and spoke to the importance of the ceremonies to the staff. The Naming Ceremonies also revealed that many staff are persons of faith, and viewed renaming the homes as worthwhile and important.

 Moreover, the Renaming Ceremonies were an opportunity to recognize the dignity and the importance of the tasks that the staff do every day, often unnoticed but so deeply appreciated by those to whom they provide care. Further, it provided an opportunity to acknowledge the humble efforts of the staff. Staff commented “I enjoyed meeting the CEO and Vice President; they were easy to talk to.”

The ceremonies evoked a sense of vocation and ministry; this was reaffirmed at each home by invoking the names of those saints who have performed miracles in their service to others throughout history.  Many staff in the Agency feel an affinity for this vocation, and view our service to those in need as a call to ministry.  Declaring that we are ministers helps to give the staff a "home” and feel connected to doing God’s work in a way that addresses the call to action without entering the priesthood or a pastoral occupation.

The heart of our service is the personal care that people receive. People come to Catholic Social Services expecting that they will be treated with humility, compassion, and respect, and that we are who we say that we are. Love and faith ultimately necessitate a call to action. Faith without works is dead, and doing this work on behalf of Christ, the Catholic Church and Catholic Social Services is about changing and transforming lives.

To have made a difference, whether it is the dignity of providing personal care to a person who cannot do it for themselves, or helping someone with a disability to find employment, or sharing compassion and concern for someone who is contemplating suicide, is the essence of love in action. The naming ceremonies remind us that there is power in a name, and they compel the staff engaged in their vocation and personal ministry to serve and act in accordance with the Gospel of Christ and Catholic Social Teaching.