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In our latest episode of Charisms for Catholics, host Jill Simons and guest Theresa Zoe Williams delve into the lives of saints who epitomized the charism of pastoring. This spiritual gift, often misunderstood as merely a call to leadership or teaching, is more profoundly about companionship and embodying Christ’s steadfast love in the lives of others. Here, we explore three such saints: Saint John Bosco, Saint John Paul II, and Saint Philip Neri.

Saint John Bosco: The Companion of the Overlooked

Saint John Bosco is perhaps the quintessential example of the charism of pastoring. His entire ministry centered around accompaniment, especially of marginalized boys in the slums. Theresa Zoe Williams highlights how Bosco employed creative methods like magic tricks to capture the attention of these youths, preaching to them only once he had their full focus. More than just teaching, Bosco sought to improve their lives practically—finding better living conditions, negotiating fair working terms for apprentices, and providing them with education and spiritual guidance.
Bosco’s approach shows the depth of pastoring as an active, involved presence in people’s lives. He didn’t merely offer advice from a distance; he walked alongside these boys, guiding them through their challenges and into better futures. His work bore immediate fruit as many of these boys went on to become educators, priests, and even saints themselves, demonstrating the lasting impact of true pastoral care.

Saint John Paul II: The Global Shepherd

For many of us, Saint John Paul II was a father figure in faith. Theresa Zoe Williams and Jill Simons reflect on how his pastoral touch felt personal, despite his global influence. John Paul II founded World Youth Day, drawing youth from around the globe to experience the universal church and deepen their faith.
John Paul II’s writings and personal messages always carried a sense of individual concern and love. Even as he battled Parkinson’s disease, he continued to lead by example, demonstrating what it means to be unafraid in the face of suffering. This transparent display of vulnerability showed the world that his strength came from Christ, offering a powerful witness to pastoral care’s essence—leading by presence and example.

Saint Philip Neri: The Joyful Listener

Saint Philip Neri brought out the best in those around him through his joyful and approachable demeanor. Known for listening to confessions from dawn till dusk, Neri provided spiritual healing and guidance to countless individuals. His ability to make everyone feel heard and loved made him a beloved figure.
Neri’s pastoral care extended beyond the confessional. He led his followers into hospitals to pray for and assist the sick, embodying the charism of pastoring through his actions. His joy was infectious, making people want to follow him and emulate his Christian life. Such joy in ministry is a hallmark of the charism of pastoring, showing that genuine care and concern for others can transform lives.

Conclusion

The lives of Saint John Bosco, Saint John Paul II, and Saint Philip Neri offer a profound understanding of what it means to embody the charism of pastoring. These saints show us that pastoring is not confined to roles of leadership or teaching but is deeply rooted in accompanying others through their life’s journey, reflecting Christ’s steadfast and loving presence.
As we continue to explore the myriad charisms bestowed upon the Church, let these saints inspire us to deepen our companionate relationships and embody pastoral care in our communities. For further insights into your own charisms, visit Many Parts Ministries to start your discernment journey.

Jill Simons:
Hello, and welcome to Charisms for Catholics. My name is Jill Simons, and I’m the executive director at Many Parts Ministries, where we equip the body of Christ by helping people learn about and discern their charisms, which is really another word for spiritual gifts. When you discern your charisms, you’re able to see how the holy spirit is already active in your life and where he is inviting you to further build the church. Let’s dive in. Welcome to today’s episode of Charism for Catholics. Today, we are gonna be talking about the saints that lived out of this charism of pastoring. Now a lot of people get confused about pastoring because they don’t necessarily feel drawn to leadership roles, maybe they aren’t teachers, but they still feel like, or they have discerned that they have this gift of pastoring. And that is totally normal.

Jill Simons:
It is very likely, very possible for people to have a gift of pastoring without being in a leadership or a teaching position because pastoring more than anything is about accompanying people, about going through life with people, and having the longevity and the connections and the relationships with people in your life. So that you become really a an a safe place. And I almost use the word avatar, but it’s kind of that, embodiment of the steadfastness of Christ in people’s lives. And so once again, I have our staff member, Theresa Zoe Williams, here with me to chat about several saints today that embody this gift of pastoring. So thank you so much, Theresa, for being here with me today.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Jill, always a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me on again.

Jill Simons:
So let’s go ahead and jump right in. Who is the first saint we’re gonna be chatting about today?

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Yes. The first saint is Saint John Bosco, who I mean, I say this about so many saints, but I adore him. I think it’s good to adore a lot of saints and have a wide base of people that you can look to for all the aspects of your life. But John Bosco was the first person who came to mind when I was looking at saints for pastoring because, I mean, that is his whole thing. Accompaniment is his whole thing. And we’ve had saints who were pupils of him for other charisms. He just brought out the best in the people that he encountered. But some of the specific things about him, like, he in the beginning, he learned magic tricks so that he could hold the attention of others, and then after them would preach once he had their attention.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
And not only is the magic tricks, like, a way of of accompaniment of getting people there, but then how he preached brought people further in and made them want to stay and learn more. And so I just oh, man. There’s so much to say about him. I just I love him so much. He, as we know or is very famous for, he targeted the overlooked boys in the slums and pestered them to keep them out of prison and found lodging for them, and then he would teach them as well. And I he found the people who needed him most, and he learned how to relate to them, and then he brought them into a better way of life. Whether that be whether we’re talking religion or just in their daily life, you know, he found their basic necessities for them and made sure that they were safe. He negotiated better working conditions for boys who were apprentices.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Again, just like that finding where someone is being taken advantage of and going with them to understand what’s going on and to understand what hit they’re up against and then finding a better way forward for them. And in his time, like, this is a huge deal. Yeah. Like, we don’t have child labor laws. We don’t have, homes for children who are, you know, on the streets and things like that. You know, we don’t have wards of the state or anything like that. We don’t have foster families and things. He became that to all of these people, to all of these children.

Jill Simons:
The charism of Pastorene just and and what the what you’re sharing about him just is the number one one where just the image of Christ is so clear. You know, obviously, Christ had the fullness of all 20 4 charisms, but the one where it’s just like the the first picture I think of with it is pastoring, and we see in an expanded way Saint John Bosco showing up truly in persona Charism as a priest to these boys in as Christ the good shepherd, really, you know, showing them how to move forward, really shepherding them. And some other, organizations and assessments actually use the word shepherding instead of pastoring as their kind of moniker for this gift because there is that active, going with that he exemplifies that is a part of the gift as well.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Yeah. Yeah. Oh my gosh. It’s just when the first image that comes to mind when we say Jesus Christ, for me, is Christ with the children. And that’s just that’s who I picture Christ to be, like, embracing the little children who have come to him. I see myself as a little child that comes to him. I’m like, I’m not pompous enough to believe that I’m an adult in relation to anything bigger than myself, and in the slightest, and especially in relation to God. I know that I am small, and John Bosco really embodied that.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
And what’s great is he got to see the fruit from that too. He immediately saw boys in better living conditions with better jobs, living better lives, and he who became teachers and priests and things themselves. And he got to see them use their own charisms and go out in ways that they wouldn’t have been able to if he didn’t first accompany them through all of the muck. Yeah. And the muck never bothered him. You know? Like, it he was there. He was just always there. And how cool that, you know, some of those people that he did pastor went on to become saints themselves because of his example.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Yeah. He was truly, like you said, in persona Christie to them. And I just, man, I just love John Bosco so much.

Jill Simons:
And that’s so common in a person with pastoring is there’s almost I’ve I know some people where this is their gift, and we were in a group of friends where one person in our group of friends was having a hard time, and so their instinct was to pull away. And the person with pastoring got very mad at them because they were exactly like you said, like, the muck didn’t bother them. We’re like, no. That’s literally the point of this. Like, where are you going? Like, we’re we’re supposed to be going through this together. Like, don’t deprive me of the opportunity to go through this with you because this is what I desire.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Yes. Yes. Exactly. I wrote a book on, like, the Disney princesses and how they fit into our faith life, and, I did Wendy Darling from Peter Pan as one of them, and the saint I matched her up with was Saint John Bosco Because in her story, she’s not afraid to just go with the literal lost boys and accompany them, be what they needed, Simons to be for them. And then she led them into a better life. Like, in this in the play, the story, most of the lost boys come back to, from Neverland with her, and they all find family. She finds them families and things. She literally accompanies them into a better life, into a new life.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
And then with her daughter and her grandchildren, like, going off with Peter Pan, like, she leads them in these ways and things. And that’s exactly what Jon Bosco does. It just, oh, I got the goosebumps because I just he’s so he’s such a big figure in my life because I was a teacher, and I was a youth Ministries. And I my favorite story has always been that of Peter Pan, and I and just seeing the parallels. And, my oldest son is named Peter for 2 people, Saint Peter and Peter Pan, because I just identify so heavily with John Bosco and see so much of him in me or in how I try to live at least. Yeah. A fun point a fun point

Jill Simons:
of many parts trivia is that my oldest son is also Peter, also for 2 people, Saint Peter and Peter Parker.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
I love it.

Jill Simons:
Yes. He likes to tell

Theresa Zoe Williams:
us that he’s also named for Peter Parker.

Jill Simons:
That’s awesome. Yeah. He can have a honorary honorific on that. Well, we could talk about Saint John Bosco forever, but I my my guy is your next one, so I wanna talk about him.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Do it. Alright. Let’s go. Hope Saint John Paul the second. He he’s special to me because he taught me what it means to be a Catholic in the world. He taught me what someone loving you really means. He taught me what going out into the world means. I call him my papa.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Like, I mean, he was pope for I mean, since before I was born, and and then I I was very blessed to, be able to go to his wake. And some of my friends went to, his funeral and some more went to pope Benedict’s installation. But I was studying abroad in Austria when he died, and we had gone to Rome as a school a month or so before he died. And we prayed outside of his hospital room, and he came to the window and blessed us. And then I I got to go to the wake and and see his body. He loomed so largely in my life because he, I mean, he set up the principles of so many things that the people who then taught and pastored me used. Mhmm. And because even though he’s pope and he’s talking to everybody, he had a way about him of feeling like it was personal.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Yes. And I think that’s a huge part of pastoring. Like, making things feel not just making them feel, but really embodying that they are personal Yeah. To you. So, like, he he started World Youth Day, and bringing the youth of the world together so that we could experience each other and experience Christ in the midst of each other. Right? He always had a personalized message for pilgrims and visitors. Like like, for us, he, it was just a message of thanks, and we were praying for him. Just the gratitude that you remember me.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Yeah. Fuck. We remember each other Yeah. In this. Like, goosebumps again because it’s just so encompassing. Yeah. The way he wrote his encyclicals and documents, they were so familiar. It’s like he’s writing directly like, a letter directly to you.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
He and he showed the whole world on many, many levels what it means to be not afraid. You know, with his Parkinson’s diagnosis and progressing farther than we’ve ever seen someone progress with Parkinson’s and live, how amazing that is that he allowed his life to be that for us, really leading by example, with us.

Jill Simons:
Because he really pastored all of us. I’m I’m in your saint generation. Yes. And that was such a like, it was a very big, like, how do we be Catholic without dad? Like, when he died, that and I’ve never been on the same continent at the same time he was. You know? And it was just so, all encompassing. And our bishop charisms here in Tulsa, what used to be my spiritual director, and he was actually, ordained by John Paul the second as a bishop, which was, like, fantastic. And so he was just sharing with me about that experience, and exactly like you said, he was talking about how as he was interacting with him, being ordained these things, obviously with lots of bishops from all over the world. He was like it felt like it was, like, my ordination, like and it was just kind of him and me, not in a so so similar to our relationship with God is, like, him and me, and we experience that intimacy so intensely in a way that somehow doesn’t exclude anybody else, like, where there’s still all everybody else is having a them and, a them and me.

Jill Simons:
And we see just one of the things that I have always been so taken with about him is just, like, the level of transparency in terms of, like, he had diminished so much that it was just so clearly Christ as the operating principle in him. And there’s a wonderful book by a darling friend of mine, Fabiola Garza, the man the boy who would become pope The king king. Yes. Which I cannot recommend highly enough, and it’s my 2 year old will bring it to me to read it, and halfway through he’ll be, like, like, wiping up to or reaching up to wipe my eyes because he’s, like, why are you crying? And I’m like, this man, this story. I love this. When they talk about and and such a powerful and maybe you’re we’re going to share about this, but this powerful episode specifically of pastoring when he was archbishop in Poland when on Christmas Eve, it was during the communist regime in Poland, and it was not legal to worship publicly. He or processed with all kinds of people in Warsaw to this field outside the city, put up a huge cross and offered midnight Christmas mass, and there were so many people that the guards the the army there didn’t even try anything because they knew they couldn’t control that larger group of people. And he was leading specifically.

Jill Simons:
And we know how much his heart for Poland was a huge part of so many things that he did because he saw those as his people exactly like we’re talking about. This was his people to shepherd, and then, you know, God and his goodness gave him to all of us to recognize that we were all his people, and it just I think that it is so much of what’s responsible for the resurgence in, like, orthodoxy and interest and buy in in Catholics our age because this was, like, our dad in our formative person

Theresa Zoe Williams:
person I am today. I would not have the faith that I have today if it was not for John Paul the second. Hands down. Like, there’s no question. No. Yeah. Nothing about it. He he was dad.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Yeah. He really was dad in the Catholic faith. And he has a special place in my family’s life because part of my family is Polish also and came from Warsaw. Shortly before, he would have come up as a priest. So they never were there when he was pope or priest, but, they always carried him with them. Yeah. Like, as soon as he became known outside of Poland, like, my family carried him in their prayers and in their hearts with him. So just a nice personal, more personal touch for me too with him.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
And my mom just adored him, and it was so evident in her life, that she loved it because she learned how to love from the best, like, the best of the best. He was really her model in life, and that was him and Saint Francis of Assisi. Yeah. But, yeah, just it was a huge blow when he died.

Jill Simons:
It was. Absolutely. And I think that that’s he left us with, again, just as I’m such a broken record about this, but, like, that renewed sense of what is possible because Yes. There was such a long list of, like, you know, nobody can do this, nobody can do that, nobody can do the other thing, especially when it came to global communism and things like that. And there were so many things that he accomplished in his life and in his papacy that everybody said was impossible, and he was the one again just like, you know, maybe from the outside looking in, like, idiot enough to go for it, but we know that he knew, like, from his relationship with God that this was something that was possible, and so there’s, obviously we know and are that Jill of these saints that we’re talking about have Many, many gifts, and we’re kind of drawing out one to focus on, but there’s clearly so many that we’re operating in the lives of all of these people because of their level of dependence and reliance on God. But we could talk like, we could do, like, full full episodes on each of these people. I don’t wanna short shift our 3rd guy who is also awesome. So let’s go ahead and hear about him.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Yes. Saint Philip Neri. He had a special talent in bringing out the best in the people around, and in human relationships. So, again, that pastoring accompaniment piece, just in the way he would talk, like, people would then come out of it going, oh, I wanna live this better life that he’s talking about. And then people would follow him, and do whatever he did because they wanted to be like him. They wanted to have what he had, and he wanted them to have what he had. So he would lead them in the Christian life, and, like, one of the things he did, he would lead his his followers into hospitals to pray for and attend to the sick who were there, which was kind of unheard of. Like, you have to be a really special person to work with the sick, someone unafraid of getting sick? And he was like, no.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
It’s all of our jobs to care for each other. Like, how are we gonna do it? Let’s go be beside them. Let’s pray for them. Let’s do whatever they they need in that moment. Let’s be their nurses right now. And so in that aspect, he’s pastoring people to follow him into these actions, and then he’s also pastoring the people that he’s serving, accompanying them in their illnesses and in their struggles. And one of the the coolest things about him is he would listen to confessions from sunup to sundown. I don’t know about you, but our confession line is never very long, at my church, which breaks my heart, because confession isn’t about it isn’t just about admitting guilt.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Right? It’s about receiving mercy. That’s it’s really the sacrament of mercy. And he would listen to the confessions from sunup to sundown because so many people wanted to go to him specifically to be pastored, to be listened to, to be healed in in a spiritual sense, that there’s just so many of them, and he would have to quit at sundown so that he could get a little bit of sleep so that he could do it again the next day. You know? Like, just just an amazing person of the people

Jill Simons:
Mhmm.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Really being in the midst of the people he that were around him, you know, being one of them and also leading them on to more than what they had. Just a very special man.

Jill Simons:
And always really marked with joy. I have read a lot of times that, like, he is the one that, like, despite, I don’t know, 12 hours of listening to Simons would probably be kind of depressing to me. I would have to think, like, hearing everyone’s were deepest darkest secrets for 12 hours a day. But goodness knows that’s why God in his mercy do not make me a man or give me a priestly vocation, but it is something that he was still showing forth, like, the fullness of those get those fruits of the holy spirit in that, and and I’ve heard so frequently specifically about his joy.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Yes. Like, he was never like, it might look daunting to some people to have to listen to confessions from sun ups to sundown, for instance. But to him, it was, like, this great privilege, like, that he got to sit here and he’s entrusted with us, and, these people come to him. And who wouldn’t be attracted to something like that, to someone like that? Who wouldn’t wanna go spill your deepest darkest secrets? To someone who you know is not only going to listen to you, not only going to give you the absolution you desire, but is also gonna look on you with joy and love. Like, what a great gift that you’re here. Mhmm. Like, that’s oh, it’s not, oh, man. You’re here again.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
If you’ve sinned again, it’s, oh, you’re here again. Oh, wonderful. Let’s let’s prepare this. Mhmm. You know, like, what a gift that is in a person. Yeah. And I’ve I’ve never had a confessor that was quite like this, where I definitely wanna go back to the same one, and I definitely wanna make sure that, like, this person is the one listening to me because it’s rare. Absolutely.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
At least in where I’m at.

Jill Simons:
And a lot of people will ask That’s a great priest.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Yes. He’s not.

Jill Simons:
A lot of people ask, like, does a pastor have to have pastoring? Like, looking at priests, you know, is this something that’s required? And it’s definitely not. It’s some not something where somebody’s priestly vocation is less than or invalidated or anything in any way if is not one of the gifts that they have currently received. That said, all 3 of these saints that we’ve talked about today would be excellent intercessors for your parish priest. If you are looking for men to pray and take your priest to the throne of God in heaven, intercede for him. These you can’t get better than these 3 that we’ve talked about today, Saint John Bosco, John Paul the second, and Saint Philip Neri are all going to be great people to entrust your priest to, and to just pray for the continued opening up the gifts that they do have and maybe the continued outpouring of new gifts upon them so that they can continue to be in in Persona Christi in their pre sleep vocation. So we are so excited to share more saints with you in the future. We are gonna have another episode like this in 2 weeks. We will go through all of the saints for our next charism which is music.

Jill Simons:
We’ve got some great ones and maybe some that you’ve never heard of coming up in that episode that I think you’re really going to enjoy, so listen again in 2 weeks. Next week Jill be back with a regular episode so that we will just continue to work through all of the charisms to share about saints with them. Thank you so much for being with us this week. If you’d like more information about, just the saints we talked about in this episode, go ahead and check out the show notes where there is just, their names, and you can continue to search their names and learn about them more from there. God bless you, and have a great week. Thanks so much for joining us on today’s episode of Charisms for Catholics. If you would like to learn more about your charisms or begin your own discernment journey, head to our website at manypartsministries.com Ministries you can download our free pdf guide to all 24 charisms and also begin your own journey by taking our charisms assessment.