In my last column which was posted on the Catholic Standard’s website, I wrote about Labor Day, the gift of work and the right to work. And now, I’m not working!
I’m not working much because I’m recuperating from open heart surgery. Thankfully, all went well, and I feel good. I’m getting stronger by the day, but I still have a fairly lengthy recovery before returning to Catholic Charities full time.
Modern medicine is truly amazing. I pray in deep gratitude for the doctors, nurses and the entire team at MedStar Washington Hospital Center who took such good care of me and put me on the road to recovery.
I also had open heart surgery in 1997, so this was not new for me. In both cases, I was blessed that my body spoke to me. Both times were through exercise, when I would occasionally not be able to fully catch my breath. Through tests, it was determined that I first needed surgery to replace an aortic valve, and this last time was to repair an aortic aneurysm.
I’ve tried to draw on that experience from 23 years ago. I viewed that recuperation as a gift from God, and I’m taking the same approach this time. The surgery itself is not fun, but once you get through the first several days, you begin to feel better and the recovery becomes more about getting your strength back. There’s time to read. There’s time to pray. There’s time to exercise lightly. (They have me walking a mile a day right now.)
All the pandemic-related disruptions had already forced me to slow down somewhat, so I was better prepared for this recovery. Before the surgery, I was exercising more, eating better, and getting more sleep. My schedule was lighter, and I did much of my work at home. I was in a good place physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I mentioned in a prior column that I had been holding listening sessions with the Catholic Charities’ staff, checking in to see how they were doing in these unusual times and how I could help. In many ways, this has been God’s chance to ask me to listen to Him. I’m grateful for that, since I am not someone who would normally slow down on my own.
I’m taking time to listen, to think, to clear my head, and to see what God wants me to do. As I approach 50 years as a priest and my 75th birthday, I realize my time as president of Catholic Charities is getting shorter. I am thinking about what we can do in my remaining years at the agency while also looking ahead a bit to retirement.
I am grateful to the many, many people who have reached out to me with their prayers, thoughts, concerns, and special favors. I have always tried my best throughout my ministry to say “yes” to all who come my way, and I have been so blessed by the countless “yeses” that have now come to me from all who want to help however they can.
In some ways, I feel like I purchased an extended warranty that allows me to know my heart should be fine for a long time. While I would recommend a less invasive way of getting on top of your physical well-being, there is a blessing in receiving a clean bill of health and a peace of mind knowing that your heart is in great shape for the future.
I hope this isn’t too much information, or “TMI” as the younger generations like to say. I just wanted to share the goodness of God, the miracle of wonderful doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, and the gift of a respite – a time of more intense prayer, reading, and relaxation – before going back to work.
I’m able to do a lot already (including these columns!), but I don’t expect to be back full time for at least another month. You can count on my prayers for you during this time, and if you don’t mind, say a prayer of thanksgiving for my recovery, and a prayer that God will bless all who work on behalf of the poor and those in need.
I’m so blessed to have an incredible team that surrounds me, and I know that the good work of Catholic Charities continues full speed ahead through the heroic efforts of our staff, volunteers, and donors. We will all be back together soon, doing the work of charity, serving those in need, and making sure that no one is left behind.
That’s our goal. That’s our ministry. That’s our gift to God and to our sisters and brothers in need.
I’ll be ready. God has given each of us gifts, and I’ve always felt that one of mine is an abundance of energy. I still have that energy, so at this point in my life I would never take a few months away from work on my own. I believe God is saying to me, “Catch your breath. Get your focus in order. And then we’ll work together again for the good of the poor.”
Through it all, both before and after the surgery, I have felt a tremendous calm and peace knowing that God is in charge no matter what happens. I believe it is “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding and will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
I pray we all know that same peace in loving God and our neighbor.
(Msgr. Enzler serves as the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.)
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