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A Marvelous Apostolate

By Father Robert Lauder

LAST NOVEMBER, the Amityville Dominicans held their annual gala celebration and fundraiser. Ordinarily, I don’t attend galas or large dinner celebrations, but I knew that the decision to attend or not attend this one was a “no brainer.”

The Dominican Sisters were honoring Sister Ave Clark, O.P., one of the most impressive persons I know.

Through her “Heart to Heart” ministry, Sister Ave has touched the lives of many. When I asked her to describe what the “Heart to Heart” ministry is, Sister said it was a ministry of compassion and compassionate prayer. It shares evenings of prayer and hope to uplift people’s spirit. At least once each semester I attend one of these evenings and share my faith, hope and love with others. I don’t recall how many years I have been participating, but of course, I receive much more than I give.

Participating and sharing in “Heart to Heart” ministry has been a wonderful blessing and grace in my life. For me, the highlight of an evening of prayer and compassion with Sister Ave is when she shares anecdotes from her own life. When I first heard some of these anecdotes, I wondered if Sister Ave was creating them from her own imagination. Could these experiences she was reporting actually happen in her life? The experiences that did actually happen have God’s grace written all over them. Sister Ave’s life of compassionate love is an inspiration to me.

“Heart to Heart” ministry and Sister Ave are on my mind at this moment because I am recalling what a wonderful evening the Gala was but even more because of Sister Ave’s new book, “Heart to Heart Parables: Sowing Seeds of Peace, Hope, Faith and Love.” Having finished reading the book, I regret that I did not say a prayer before reading each of the parables. The book contains wonderful insights into compassion and love and I think praying before reading would have made my reading experience even more fruitful.

On the first page of her book, Sister Ave lists 14 groups of people or types of problems toward which “Heart to Heart” ministry reaches out. Among them are the following: Rachel Prayer Hour: post-abortion syndrome; Elizabeth Ministry: for parents who have lost a child; Caring Hearts: for people with PTSD; Samaritan Hearts: victims of tragic crimes; SOS: survivors of suicide; Roses: for survivors of abuse/ violence/ domestic violence. Sister Ave has personally experienced a number of the wounds she lists. She is a powerful example of a “wounded healer.” The dedication that Sister Ave wrote for her book not only fits the book but reveals something of her faith and the great compassion with which she lives her life:

“This book is dedicated in thanksgiving for all the gifts our Creator has given to us ever so generously … the birds, the flowers, dogs and even little ants that somehow let us know that the beauty of creation can teach us in humble, quiet, hidden, and unassuming ways to value, cherish and care for all of life especially by living our Faith courageously and graciously with ‘Gratitude’ of the heart.”

There are parables in Sister Ave’s book involving dogs, flowers and ants. I found all of the parables both insightful and beautiful. Each parable has a message that can help readers to see more deeply into the mystery of their lives. The prologue to the book was written by Antoinette Bosco. In the first paragraph, she describes Sister’s accomplishment in writing parables. Bosco writes the following:

“It takes a skilled story teller like Sister Ave Clark to compose a parable. But when the tale seems to come truly from the heart, and not the head, that is when you know you’re in ‘Sister Ave Land’. Her stories are for anyone who has been thrashed to the bottom, stuck in the dark, not believing, at that moment that it is even worth trying to get up. By using the humblest creatures of nature as her main characters, Sister Ave exposes the miracle of hope.” (p. 11)

I have no idea how many people attend Sister’s events. When I attend, I see about 50 or 60 people. Her hopeful attitude is the same no matter how many people attend. For those who have never attended, Sister Ave’s new book can serve as in introduction to a remarkable woman.