Church of the Resurrection parishioner finds blessings in volunteering
Through volunteering, Sabrina Burton Simonson has discovered people in situations she did not know existed and a means to help them.
“I’m blessed because I do not know what it’s like to be in the position these people are in. I have no idea,” said Simonson, executive assistant to the Cincinnati chief of police — presently interim Chief Eliot Isaac. She volunteers for St. Vincent de Paul’s Cathedral Conference serving more than a five mile radius of downtown Cincinnati, including Over-the-Rhine, the West End and Mohawk.
“I’m surprised people in all of these communities are in the dire straits they are. While my ultimate retirement goal is to work in a parish, I can see myself continuing with St. Vincent de Paul as much as I can. They keep asking me: ‘You’re not leaving are you?’ I love the people I’m with.”
“It is a very humbling and it is a very rewarding experience. Everyone I’ve been with to help is very grateful. I was surprised people would allow others into their homes to discuss their intimate situations. I do not feel intimidated. They don’t feel intimidated. I am just really surprised by that.”
Simonson, 57, is within four years of retirement from the city where she has been a civilian employee, all but six of her 26 years with police department; the other time in the health department.
Looking ahead, Simonson decided she could be an effective parish office manager given her wealth of experience in the police department. She contemplated what she needed most was a pastoral ministry component and enrolled in a master’s degree program at the Athenaeum of Ohio where she is three hours of classroom work away from her goal.
Simonson is active in many parish ministries at the Church of the Resurrection in Bond Hill where she resides. She also serves on the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.
In the parish, “I am a member of the choir, chairperson of the liturgy commission, bulletin editor, website administrator and music committee member. We meet monthly to select music for Masses. We had a revival in (October) and I was revival committee chairperson. Our revivalist was Father Maurice Nutt, director of the Institute of Black Catholic Studies at New Orleans. This was our second time giving a revival. We had one a couple of years ago and he was our revivalist and the church was full each day.
“I’m also involved as a lector. Every year, we have a Martin Luther King anniversary event called ‘Keep the Dream Alive.’ We have a different theme each year and I’m on that committee and prepare program booklets for the (January) event. It is open to the public on Jan. 18…” During the event “we recognize people in the community — not necessarily Catholic — selected from nominations sent in and based on the characteristics of Martin Luther King in community service and what nominees do for the betterment of all. Last year, we selected eight and I was one of those recognized for the body of work I do for the church.”
“I’m in the process of completing my project in ministry for my degree. Right now, I’m finishing 80 field education hours where I’m working with the St. Vincent de Paul Cathedral group. We meet at 9 a.m. every Saturday morning at the cathedral in the undercroft,” said Simonson, mother of three adult children.
“Calls are received throughout the week from people needing assistance for rent, clothing, food, furniture vouchers, Duke Energy assistance, a variety of things. There are anywhere from six to eight calls each week. When we meet, we go over the calls and we go out in pairs on home visits.
“We minister to the people. The only thing we can physically hand them is a voucher for food or a Kroger card or a voucher for clothing at St. Vincent de Paul stores. But, once we do our home visit, then we all meet back at the Cathedral and we recap what we did and what we have offered and can offer. Our group has to agree. Say someone needs rent — they need $100 dollars. The group will agree. Typically, for rent, we would not go over $150, so it is a subsidy.
“We are giving them a boost to help them and we encourage them to come up with some of what they need. For example, if they have any family members, are there any ways they can come up with some of the money? In the home visits, we also pray with them; ask if they have a church home. We will give them a resource list of different agencies in the downtown area they can get assistance from,” said Simonson, who added she has completed about half of her service hours.
Simonson admits it’s difficult spending Saturdays volunteering while working a busy 40-hour week at her job.
“At the Church of the Resurrection, I’m into moving things forward in the parish office. It plays off of what I do with the police department. In retirement, I’d like to move into a parish office situation. I feel I’m doing all the right things to prepare. I feel I’m where I need to be and I love everything I’m doing including St. Vincent de Paul” where she hopes to keep an active connection.
This Everyday Evangelist feature first appeared in the December 2015 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.