Serving the homebound, hospitalized a graced ministry for volunteers
Story by Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
Throughout the Diocese, there are numerous priests, deacons and laity who serve in the grace-filled ministry of bringing Christ to others, namely those who are hospitalized, living in nursing homes and the homebound.
While the organization of these programs and services may vary among parishes, one common thread appears to be evident – visitors receive as many graces as their recipients.
Pat Colamarino of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, is responsible for scheduling the ministry to the homebound in the Mercer County Parish.
“We bring them Christ, we pray with them,” she said. “We also socialize with them. Sometimes they see no one but us, if their children or family are not nearby. It’s very important to spend that time with them.”
Colamarino, who estimates that there are currently around 50 parishioners who are on the homebound list, says this time with the people she visits is an important component of the ministry.
“We are prepared. We have the Eucharist and our prayers that we pray with them. We then ask them about their doctor’s visits, their families,” she said.
The volunteers shared that they not only are giving a wonderful gift to the sick, they too, receive blessings from their visits with the homebound in return.
Pat Mulholland, who organizes the volunteer ministry in St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, agrees.
“I feel so blessed to be able to do this. We are doing God’s work, and the volunteers feel that they get more than they give in the ministry. The homebound sometimes feel isolated and can feel that there is a disconnect between them and their parish. Most are elderly and ill, so this is a way to make them feel connected again,” she explained.
In addition to the ministers to the homebound, parish priests also visit those who are sick “allowing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, anointing of the sick if they haven’t already received it or if they are having surgery or if they just want to speak to a priest,” she shared.
In Sacred Heart Parish, Mount Holly, Merry Mercellino also speaks of the connections formed between the Eucharistic Minister and the infirm.
“There is real connection to the person we are visiting. We bring Jesus, of course, and we pray with them. Sometimes, their children and family members may not be practicing their faith, so we often bring a different perspective,” Mercellino said.
In addition to the ministry to the homebound, there are parishes that work with local or state organizations to bring Christ to others.
In St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, Lorrie McGee, pastoral minister for community outreach, worked with a local agency, Love INC., to facilitate the Adopt-An-Elder program, which is a small group of volunteers who work together in teams to provide practical, emotional and spiritual support to older adults who may not be able to remain independent and in their own home without the assistance of others.
Some of the team’s duties include providing transportation to the doctor or grocery store, or meals, running errands, making phone calls, bringing Holy Communion, praying the Rosary, and doing yard work. The team approach gives volunteers schedule flexibility, a built-in support system and the opportunity to do what they enjoy doing for others.
“Love INC. also works with the elderly and will assess a situation in our area and if there is a need where we can provide assistance. If there is a need, St. Benedict’s will staff the volunteers,” McGee said.
For more information on becoming involved in this ministry, contact a local parish.