Ministry: Pastoral Counselor, Diocese of Buffalo
This article was originally published in the Catholic Cemeteries, Diocese of Buffalo, Revelations spring 2016 newsletter.
“Where is Your Hope Today?” This is the question that often occurs in the midst of conversations with Sister Michele Jackson, OSF, a pastoral counselor and New York State licensed mental health counselor.
Sister Michele believes that everyone has a story and that each story is sacred. Each session with her is a time where people can be listened to with respect, find a non-judgmental atmosphere and can bring God into the conversation. She helps clients find the clarity they are seeking and a new direction for their lives.
Becoming a therapist was not what Sister Michele had in mind when she began her ministry through the Sisters of St. Francis many years ago. She began her work teaching elementary school students. Then, for ten years, she traveled 500 miles each week serving 16 parishes in rural areas of New York State providing religious education classes. Finally she landed at St. Stephen Parish in Middleport for 24 years, serving in many areas of Parish Life.
During this time, she also volunteered as a chaplain at Medina Hospital. She discovered that she had a way with people and that the hospital staff was referring people to her who needed help during a difficult time. This led to her becoming a part of the Samaritan Pastoral Counseling Center’s residency program, where she began on her journey towards becoming a Pastoral Counselor.
Upon completion of her residency, Sister Michele entered Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania, where she received her master’s degree in pastoral counseling. It was a long circuitous journey from elementary school teacher to therapist, but Sister Michele always knew that God was guiding each step as she went along.
Currently she has a private practice located at St. Aloysius Gonzaga in Cheektowaga. Although the school is closed, Sister Michele finds herself once again in a classroom, but this time without the desks and students. She has remodeled a classroom into a warm, inviting space to see her clients in and she welcomes people of all ages and all faiths, who are seeking support for any type of issue. Fees are based on a sliding scale so that help is available no matter a person’s ability to pay. Former clients say that Sister Michele has helped them to “get their life back” and to “move out of apathy to new meaning for my life.” Her compassionate approach had one client saying that they “would not have made it through those dark days” without her help.
Sister Michele is committed to bringing hope back into her client’s lives and to creating a sacred space where people can be comfortable talking about how they are feeling. As the conversation unfolds, oftentimes clients discover a truth about themselves that was somehow hidden in the messiness of life. Sister Michele says that her practice is based upon helping her clients have, “clarity in their life, in their relationships and to bring them to a place where they can find peace and hope.”