How An Interfaith Minister Empowered Me To Be The Co-Creator With Spirit of My Life Story

by Judy Parker

Judy and Pat

Reverend Patty Furino was one of the first neighbors I met after moving to an apartment in Rock Hill, South Carolina, close to my daughter. Other than my daughter I knew no one in Rock Hill.  Patty’s kind words of encouragement as she walked her dog Coba past my patio meant a lot. From our initial encounter Patty’s deep genuineness and care for others was apparent. Within a couple weeks after meeting Patty I lost my beloved rescue Sophie. The support Patty gave me (along with loaning her sweet Coba to me on multiple occasions) confirmed my first impression of her. She has now become a very important part of my life.

I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through the last 5 months without the emotional support Reverend Patty Furino has given me.  Between dealing with the loss of my beloved dog Sophie on 2/15/21 after 12 years as my sole companion, transitioning to life in a new city far from my remaining nine siblings, and developing a new and healthier relationship with my grown daughter, it has been a challenging time to say the least.

Among many things Patty has taught me is that if I don’t take care of myself,  I won’t be able to take care of anyone else.  Thanks to Patty I am learning to listen to my own heart and to focus some attention on what Judy needs.  I no longer rush to anybody I perceived as needing my help; to some it may sound selfish, but I have discovered that self-care is essential to my peace of mind. She has helped me see that being still is a wonderful gift we can give ourselves ,without feeling guilty. I have experienced first-hand the benefit of Patty’s advice to meditate and listen for guidance before making a major decision.

With Patty’s mentoring my whole attitude is changing to a more positive one.  More than ever before I see that the way I look at life greatly affects my experience.  As Patty likes to say, I am the co-creator with spirit of my own life story. So with that in mind, I work daily on keeping my thoughts more positive because I now believe that our thoughts affect our reality. I have always enjoyed helping others, but Patty has helped me realize that sometimes you need to help them help themselves. It is tough not doing what your loved ones expect but sometimes it is better in the long run to empower them to find their own truth.  Patty is teaching me to be cognizant of my impact on everyone with whom I interact including the lady at Walmart, the waitress, the store clerk, the guy at the park and not just on my loved ones. She is helping me see that by walking with awareness, together we can create a better world one small step at a time.   

Featured background image used with permission of Kim Doyle ©2021

About The Writer

Judy Parker was born on July 30,1951 in rural Williamsburg County, South Carolina.  As a middle child of 11 in a farming family she learned at an early age what hard work really meant.  Judy attended Winthrop College, in Rock Hill, South Carolina from August 1969 until December 1970, after which time she transferred to the University of South Carolina(USC) in Columbia.  Judy earned a Bachelor of Science in Education (mathematics) in 1974 and a Master of Mathematics in 1977 from USC.

Judy’s first career was as a mathematics teacher at junior and senior high schools in Columbia ,South Carolina from August 1977 until January 1983. After teaching, she transitioned to the field of Information Technologies. From January 1983 until her retirement in May 2013, her positions included: insurance and real estate computer systems installation and troubleshooting, data systems analyst, instructor of insurance principles ,system software, and computer systems problem management.  She enjoyed her career and found immense satisfaction in her work.

She is divorced and the mother of one 34-year-old daughter. After retirement, Judy had a little difficulty in figuring out what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. Because of her passion for the outdoors, she quickly decided to use her free time to hike in state and national parks.  Judy is currently exploring the idea of buying an RV and “traveling this grand land of ours. “

8 Weeks Later


Photo by Jana Sabeth on Unsplash

Reflections

It has been approximately two months since the book, When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister was released. Pat and I are pleased to have heard from grieving individuals who have taken comfort in the fact that they can be empowered to maintain continued bonds with their loved ones. One young woman told us that she and her mother were reading the book and planned to discuss it. Another parent told us that she was reading it together with her college age daughter. One of the outcomes that Pat and I hoped for was that the book would inspire multigenerational discussions about how the integration of psychology and spiritual practices could empower present and future generations to transcend life challenges. We had hoped that people would resonate with the message we are trying to convey.

Though we are humbled by the positive response to our book, thus far, we both had to confront our own fears and doubts(e.g. our shadow selves) during the writing process.

We’ve both had to look at the idea that our personal stories are now out there for colleagues, students and family to see. It has brought a sense of vulnerability to our private lives. In fact, prior to our book being published, I had a dream of being naked and alone on a dark city street. To me, that was the ultimate and symbolic representation of being vulnerable. Sharing my spiritually transformative experience after 10 years, was risky for me because of how my science based colleagues in academia would perceive my experience. But I hold my colleagues in high regard because they are very clear with what they believe. And there is room in this world for individuals with different beliefs to coexist peacefully. If we choose to witness rather than judge another person’s beliefs, we integrate certain aspects of them into our core belief system, if we so choose. So I cast any fear and doubt I had aside and “completed the mission” with Pat. Besides, I was never really in total control of the writing process, Spirit truly inspired the content of this book.

Empowerment and The Mississippi Freedom Trail

Photo Credit: Patty Furino

The work that I did with Pat was not traditional grief work. Pat empowered me to use the wisdom she shared through not only my daughter, but my other deceased ancestors and her wise spirit guides to facilitate the development of a clear and peaceful perspective that would help me look at the world differently. She helped me peck at the shadows of my past so I could find clarity in the present and create the future of my own creation. What Pat does is probably best described as Spiritual Counseling, and she treats it as a ministry. Her guidance helps individuals to achieve the greatest level of awareness and empowers them to develop a sense of self-efficacy or belief that their actions can have a positive impact on the world around them.

I had previously attempted to convince Pat of our need to write a book about my experience and what I learned during our marathon conversations. But Pat always resisted, because she was always very private, not wanting to share her level of awareness openly with the world, for fear of being misconstrued. But as was the case with me, Pat cast all of that doubt and fear aside because she also knew that Spirit was in control. Writing a book for Pat, was a HUGE accomplishment, because she was never one to sit still, let alone behind a computer typing hours upon hours and day after day. Pat has always wanted to be among the people, helping those who crossed her path, just as the Masters did. She wanted to do her work quietly.

Pat is ready to get back to work on ground with people. In May of this year, Pat will go back to Bryant’s Grocery in Money, Mississippi, to honor Emmett Till and his courage. She wants to create a second butterfly garden just as she did 10 years ago in response to the emotion that ran through her in the 24 hours following the ceremony at Bryant’s Grocery, the first marker on the Mississippi Freedom Trail.

There is a Season

What we continue to notice is that not only are our lives shifting and expanding, but also those of the generations of humans that follow us on this planet. Our children grew up with technology being introduced, this next generation is growing up with technology being the main focus of their education for an entire year. When the youngest thinkers reach their adolescent years there will be another generation that will bring evolution and change to the way we perceive our existence on this planet. As Pat has described it, these are the signs that we are in The Great Conjunction of The Aquarian Age. A time where peace, inclusivity and tolerance can be our guiding principles.

There is a 1960’s folk song written by Pete Seeger and performed by the Byrds, that came to mind as we wrote these last lines.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

Pete Seeger