Before We Tend His Sheep, We Must First Tend Ourselves

A couple weeks ago, our archdiocesan office offered a Lent reflection for parish catechetical leaders (PCLs). During lunch I was sitting next to one of the participants and I noticed her wristband. She told me it was the kind of wristband that tracks your steps, calories, distance, and more. She also mentioned that her daughter gave her this wristband as a gift on Christmas day. Apparently her family was a little concerned about her health and wanted her to be more active and healthy so that she could be around for her future grandchildren. As our conversation went on, more people at the table began to join us. We went from speaking about the wristband to speaking about our overall health as lay ministers.

My family and friends know that I am a health nut; I eat a plant-based diet and keep a strict workout schedule that includes hiking, yoga, and long walks with my dog. Therefore this particular discussion that I was having with these hard-working and dedicated PCLs was very dear and near to my heart. As I listened attentively—and with nonjudgement—I heard about their lack of incorporating exercise in their daily routines, their constant reliance on fast food, and many more poor health decisions that they make because of their overwhelming lives. Many of these lay ministers are parents or grandparents who are deeply involved in parish life and in the lives of their families. Balancing time was the main issue for all of them.

How are we to tend to the Lord’s sheep if we do not first tend to ourselves? In my position as an archdiocesan coordinator, I see many areas in need of improvement. For example, food. Many of our gatherings are bombarded with “special treats” including doughnuts and pastries for those morning meetings or pizza, burritos, and soda for those afternoon meetings. What message are we giving to ourselves and to those whom we gather and serve? What if we replaced those foods with healthier options? Fruits, vegetables, wraps, salads, soups, breads, smoothies, etc. What about exercise? Many ministers find themselves working in front of a computer all day or going from meeting to conference, and so on. The PCL with the wristband informed us that the recommended amount of steps she was told we must take each day is 10,000—which is equivalent to five miles. Wow! That may seem extreme and impossible for many of us busy-bees, but what if we gave it a try? Physical activity, of any kind, must be incorporated into our daily routine. There is no doubt that something as simple as taking more steps each day, would improve our overall and long-term health. Walking outdoors is my personal favorite; an opportunity to pray and be in the presence of nature. Jesus often went up to pray in the mountains.[1]

Moving forward, I invite you to make small changes. Keep in mind two important factors when choosing foods: (1) animal agriculture is the leading cause for deforestation and air and water pollution—contributing to climate change[2], and (2) in October of 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that there is a link between processed meat and cancer.[3] As far as exercise, there is no need to mention the cold-hard facts about its benefits, so here are some easy fitness ideas for you to take: (1) leave an old pair of sneakers in the office and use some of your lunch time to take a walk, (2) park your car in the furthest spot away from wherever you are going, (3) invest in a wristband that will help push you to get moving! With everything you do, start small and work your way up. Your body and spirit will thank you. Let your family and ministries be your motivation. Together we will walk on this beautiful faith journey, one step at a time.

2016 © Miriam Hidalgo.  All Rights Reserved.


[1] Matthew 14: 23, ESV.

[2] Andersen, Kip, and Keegan Kuhn. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. 2014.

[3] World Health Organization (WHO), 26 Oct. 2015. http://www.who.int/

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About Miriam Hidalgo

Miriam Hidalgo is the Coordinator of Catechesis for Hispanics in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut. She was born in Providence, Rhode Island; her family is from Guatemala. Miriam has a BA in Youth Ministry from Providence College and an MEd in Religious Education from Boston College. She has served at both the parish and diocesan level in religious education and youth ministry/pastoral juvenil.

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