“The faithful who are ill are deprived of their rightful and accustomed place in the Eucharistic community. In bringing communion to them the minister of communion represents Christ and manifests faith and charity on behalf of the whole community toward those who cannot be present at the eucharist. For the sick the reception of communion is not only a privilege but also a sign of support and concern shown by the Christian community for its members who are ill” (Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rite of Anointing and Viaticum, 73).
A dedicated team of Extraordinary Ministers of Communion distribute communion on a regular basis to those who are hospitalized, homebound, or reside in assisted living or skilled nursing facilities.
Communion Ministers are Touching the Sick
And Touching God As Well
When St. John baptized Jesus, he was touching God. When we receive the Eucharist, we are touching Him as well. St. Mary’s Extraordinary Communion Ministers to the Sick are making it possible for the sick and homebound to touch and be touched by God through their participation in the Church’s ministry.
St. Mary’s Hospital Ministry to the Sick began in the late 1970’s. Deacon Bob Williams, then a newcomer from New Jersey, was instrumental in developing the Hospital Ministry. Deacon Williams trained potential ministers at the hospital using protocol he had developed over the years. Today the Ministry is administered by Nicky Wallace, Director of Volunteer and Social Services, who coordinates the teams and makes sure the hospital has daily coverage and that local nursing homes have weekly coverage.
St. Mary’s Extraordinary Ministers of Communion visit sick, elderly and homebound patients everyday. The Eucharist is now distributed by Extraordinary Ministers at Greenville Memorial Hospital seven days a week. Anyone who is a Catholic in good standing, regardless of his or her parish, may receive the Eucharist upon request.
Marie Brewer, Carol Anne Gallivan, and Mary Anne Wylie make up a team that has taken communion to Greenville Memorial on Tuesdays for over ten years. Carol Ann Gallivan calls this “a wonderful ministry – a ministry that gives people a chance to talk to someone who can help them get back in touch with God.” She says, “If they want to see a priest, we request one for them or invite them to come back to Church when they recover.”
Communion to the Homebound
In addition to visiting Greenville Memorial Hospital, St. Mary’s Extraordinary Communion Ministers regularly visit St. Mary’s parishioners who are physically unable to attend Mass because of illness. Many of these are life-long members of the parish, and this ministry keeps them connected to their church. In addition to communion, visitors bring the homebound the Sunday Bulletin and, on request, a tape recording of the 11:00 AM Sunday Mass.
Nell Palms has just started visiting Hind Micheal (grandmother of Lois McAfee). Ms. Palms said that she is “truly thankful that she has been given this most PRECIOUS woman to visit!”
Deacons on the Move
While St. Mary’s four permanent Deacons serve in many capacities, all are also involved in this ministry. Deacon Frank Farina has for years visited St. Mary’s parishioners, taking them Communion and spiritual support. More recently Deacon Diego Ferro has been taking Communion to sick members of the Spanish-speaking community.
Deacon George Tierney, who is part of a team that takes the Eucharist to Greenville Memorial on Sundays, says that many patients are discharged on Friday or Saturday, so the Sunday patients are often those who are very sick and have had a long stay. To respect their privacy he often has the nursing station on their floor call the patient to make sure it is a good time for him to visit.
Deacon John Karandisevky takes the Eucharist to three nursing facilities and to 5-6 homebound patients on a weekly basis. Some of the homebound patients are terminally ill, some are elderly, and some have temporary illnesses that prevent them from getting out of the home. “I always get more out of it than I put into it. More often than not, I come away uplifted,” says Deacon John. “I go on a specific day to each facility or home. My patients know when to expect me and look forward to my coming and bringing Communion.”
More then 35 parishioners are involved in the ministry of taking communion to the sick. Several training sessions are offered each year for new Extraordinary Ministers of Communion to the sick.
Want More Information?
To request a visit from an Extraordinary Minister of Communion or to inquire about becoming a Communion Minister at St. Mary’s Church, please contact:
Deacon Joe Sanfilippo