By: Dick Milanese
The call to serve in this ministry is one that goes beyond just the action of service but translates to the very core of bringing Jesus and our parish community together in a very special relationship. For over 30 years I was blessed to serve in this ministry.
Ministers of Care are Eucharistic Ministers who take Holy Communion to parishioners who can’t come to church. There are three basic groups served. One group consists of people in the hospital or nursing homes, and these usually involve only one or two visits. The other two groups served involve short term or long-term homebound visits, and these can cover months or even years of time. While the primary function of ministering to all three groups is the serving of Communion, there is more to the program than that.
Going to Mass primarily centers on receiving The Body of Christ, but it also serves the purpose of bringing people together as a community, praying and worshiping together, and socializing with fellow Catholics. When we visit homebound parishioners, ministers of care try to bring a part of the community prayer and worship to the parishioner we serve. This is particularly true with serving long term needs.
Before COVID limited visits, I served in this ministry of service. The morning of the visit I would start by attending morning mass. During the mass I would pay special attention to the readings and homily so I could discuss them when making the visit. I would also bring a current parish bulletin to give to the parishioner to help keep them feel connected with the community. As our visit began, I would go over any church matters or events that might be of interest, and then a summary of the readings of the day and insights from the homily at Mass. Then we would pray together reciting the Our Father and Hail Mary, and I would serve the Consecrated Host. Finally, we would have a discussion to see if there was anything needed such as a visit from a priest or deacon, and exchange some small talk as friends do before or after Mass at church. We would then discuss when I should return for our next visit. Hopefully, the result is that they felt a sense of community, knowing their fellow parishioners cared about them enough to go to their home, and felt the benefit of joint prayer and worship. This is a perfect example of the teaching of when one or two are gathered in my name.
In my experience, sometimes the parishioners’ caregivers are Catholic who would also want to participate in the service, and they would receive Communion as well. This participation by others broadened the impact of the community. Serving in multiple ministries over the last 30 years, I have to say that when I acted as a Minister of Care, I felt I received the same sense of community. This ministry is the most rewarding of all the ministries I have felt called to serve in.