PAWLEYS ISLAND—Marguerite Schneider often writes down phrases from books that mean something to her. One of her favorites is “Communication is an act of gift-giving.”
Those words perfectly sum up the ministry she has started at Precious Blood of Christ Church, where she picks up the telephone each day and reaches out to parishioners who need to hear a friendly voice.
Schneider, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., came up with the idea several months after her husband Joseph died in November 2008. She recalled how many people offered their support, and thought she might be able to help others in the same way.
“I love to talk, I love conversation, and I thought a phone ministry might be a good idea for our church,” she said. “It wouldn’t involve visiting someone, but just making a call to ask how are you today, are you doing OK? Sometimes a person just needs somebody to talk to.”
She said getting in touch with people is especially important in areas like Pawleys Island, which is home to many retirees who live far away from family or friends.
Currently, Schneider makes regular calls to six households from the church. Some of the people are dealing with illnesses or are caring for a spouse, and others live alone. She calls a few people every day, and others once or twice a week.
“The conversation goes according to what they want,” Schneider said. “Sometimes we talk about the family, whatever is bothering them that day. I never know what the conversation is going to be day to day. I’ve called people where they’re not feeling that well, and by the end of the conversation we’re laughing with each other.”
She schedules calls throughout her busy day, which includes helping one of her sons who is being treated for cancer. He and another son live with her.
She has two other grown children — a son and daughter — and five grandchildren who visit periodically. She also volunteers at the parish, including shifts at Father Pat’s Kitchen, which provides meals for the needy.
Schneider has placed announcements about the phone ministry in the parish bulletin, and said volunteers are ready to make calls if more people want to receive them.
“I’ve never used e-mail because I know I want to hear a person’s voice, and you’d be surprised how much just a simple conversation can do for someone,” Schneider said.
Judith Koltak agrees. Schneider started calling her several months ago, and Koltak said the calls have helped her deal with an ongoing illness.
“The phone ministry is a great idea, because there are times when you just want to have somebody to talk to about things you might not want to burden your family with,” Koltak said. “During our calls we talk out problems together … We pray sometimes too. She is a wonderful, faithful friend, and has been a real support to me.”