Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"HOSPITAL MINISTRY" by Kathi Scarpace

Our parish boundaries include a hospital. Both the priests and parishioners visit the hospital on a regular basis. The priests take turns going once a week and parishioners visit the other days.

The hospital and the parish have a good working relationship. Parishioners wear hospital badges that identify them as eucharistic ministers. Each parishioner has the same day every month, e.g., the third Thursday of the month.

About twice a year I ask for volunteers through a bulletin announcement to replace any volunteers who can no longer continue. Many hospital eucharistic ministers have served for years.

I go myself as a substitute. I am always amazed at the variety of people that I meet. Because the hospital serves a large geographic region, I very rarely meet the same person twice.

On one occasion, this was not the case.

One day in May, I visited a woman who was quite upset. I did not ask her what her illness was, but whatever it was, it upset her. She was very agitated and even a little angry. Whenever I visit I ask people what they would like to pray for and I sometimes ask them to pray for an intention of mine. I asked this woman to pray for my brother who was in the hospital. We prayed together, and I gave her communion.

As it turned out, I was back at the hospital to visit about two weeks later. I visited the same woman again. To my surprise, she was a different person. She was calm and peaceful.

Because I remembered her as so upset, I asked her what made the difference. She told me that one evening she had a long talk with God. She came to terms with her illness and the limitations that would be hers. From that point forward, she was at peace and looking forward to her life.

And, by the way, she asked, how was my brother?

I was amazed that she even remembered our conversation. Somehow she was able to hear my need in the midst of hers. I thanked her and let her know how much I appreciated her prayers and also how much I appreciated her telling me about her journey to peace and acceptance.

I have visited many sick and dying people. The ideal for life is to be both well and at peace. The second choice, from my perspective, is to be ill and at peace. Without peace, life is unbearable. It may take effort to get to a place of peace, but I know that it is worth it.

I am grateful to the woman who showed me the way.

I can see why parishioners value their hospital ministry; it is a two-way street.

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