Pastoral Care

INTRODUCTION

Everything we do as the Church, the Body of Christ present on the earth, is in some way pastoral ministry. Pastoral ministry is ministry as shepherds to those who have a need. So celebrating the Mass and the sacraments is a form of pastoral ministry, for they meet a need we all have. Catechesis is a form of pastoral ministry, for we all have a need for initial and ongoing catechesis. Social activities are a form of pastoral ministry, for we are social persons and have a need for Christian socializing. Everything we do is in some way pastoral ministry.

But when we hear the term "pastoral ministry," we most often think of those who have a specific need, such as those struggling with an illness, or those facing surgery, those in the hospital, those who are in long-term care facilities, and those who are homebound. It is in this sense that we would like to share with you our pastoral ministry efforts at Holy Spirit Parish.

HOSPITAL PASTORAL MINISTRY

We are present in the hospitals five days a week, with visits on weekends in the case of an emergency or request. Our associate pastor, Father Aaron Junge, visits on Mondays or Tuesdays; our pastor, Father Dwayne Thoman visits on Wednesdays or Thursdays; and Deacon Jim visits on Fridays and when Father Aaron or Father Dwayne are unable to visit, for understandable reasons, on Monday thru Thursday.

A hospital visit lasts as long as the parishioner needs it to last. If the parishioner is very sick or in pain and wants to be left alone, the visit can be short, but most often it consists of a good portion of time. An important component of a visit is listening. Sometimes a person just needs someone to talk to. Praying with the parishioner is a significant part of a pastoral ministry visit. Answering questions and sharing what is happening in the parish often are very encouraging to the person. It is important that those whom we visit see that while they cannot get to church, we will bring the church to them. A hospital visit is an effort to share in their struggle and to just be there with them and for them.

A hospital visit is an opportunity to say in words, and even more importantly in actions, that Jesus loves them and we love them too. There are three staff members involved in this ministry, but in fact all of the members of Holy Spirit Parish are involved, through them, in visiting the parishioners in the hospital. We see this ministry as a parish-wide effort.

LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES (NURSING HOMES)

We also provide pastoral care to parishioners who are residents in long-term care facilities, sometimes referred to as nursing homes. While we have a good-size group of parishioners who visit parishioners in long-term care facilities, all of us in Holy Spirit Parish are involved in this ministry though them.

There are nine long-term care facilities in Dubuque: Hawkeye Care Center, Manor Care, Ennoble Manor, Hillcrest Resident Care Facility (formerly Julien Care Facility), Luther Manor, Bethany Home, Sunnycrest Manor, Dubuque Specialty Care, and Stonehill Care Center. Holy Spirit Parish has 75 parishioners living in these care centers.

Our desire to visit them on a regular basis made it necessary to involve parishioners in this ministry. We spent a month speaking and recruiting at the weekend Masses, placing articles in the bulletin and a sign-up sheet in the tear-off section, and gleaning names from the time and talent survey. In late November and early December of 2008, we had two orientation sessions for those who signed up to serve. We now have about 35 parishioners visiting fellow parishioners in these facilities.

They visit at least once a month. Some are able to visit more than once a month and are encouraged to do so. Some visit as a team, such as a husband and a wife, and one mother visits with her three children. The visitors take a parish bulletin to the residents, who are appreciative because they are able to stay in contact with us and know what is happening in the parish. The purpose of the visit is to bring the church to those who cannot get to church. The visitor offers to pray with the resident. Hopefully, as the visits continue, relationships develop and the visitor and resident become good friends. Deacon Jim, Father Dwayne, and Father Aaron also visit our parishioners in the care centers.

In addition to all of this, our parish is responsible for the Sacramental Life of Sunnycrest Manor and Bethany Home. Father Dwayne and Father Aaron take turns celebrating Mass at Sunnycrest Manor once a month. Deacon Jim provides a Word and Communion Service for the residents of Sunnycrest Manor the other three weeks of the month. A retired priest living at Bethany Home celebrates Mass there for us. Father Dwayne and Father Aaron celebrate the sacraments of the Anointing of the Sick and Reconciliation with the residents periodically.

We can always use more visitors, so we encourage parish members to give this some prayer and thought and step up to serve. We see this ministry as a parish-wide effort. We are very thankful for the visitors who provide this loving service.

HOMEBOUND

We also provide pastoral care to members of our parish who are homebound. We have 61 parishioners who are homebound. Our desire to visit them on a regular basis made it necessary to involve more parishioners in this ministry as well. There are about 40 parishioners who visit fellow parishioners who are homebound. Once again, because they are unable to get to church, we bring the church to them. It is also an opportunity for us to get information to them and to keep our pastor, associate pastor, and staff apprised of their needs.

Ideally, a homebound parishioner is visited once a week. A visit consists of being a friend, listening with compassion and concern, praying with them, and in most cases taking Holy Communion to them. Pastoral care visits also provide the opportunity to keep the homebound parishioner in contact with the parish. A weekly bulletin is given to each homebound person. Fr. Dwayne and Fr. Aaron visit homebound parishioners to celebrate the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick with them.

Again, we can always use more visitors, so we encourage parish members to give it some prayer and thought and step up to the plate to serve. And again, we are grateful for the parishioner visitors who provide this loving service to fellow parishioners.

CONCLUSION

The hospitals let us know when a parishioner is a patient, but sometimes there is a glitch in the system. For instance, when someone comes in through the emergency room, often the hospital doesn't have time to ask about parish membership, so that information doesn't get recorded on their chart and we aren't informed that the person is in the hospital. So if you or a family member or a friend isn't getting hospital visits from parish clergy, please let us know.

Similarly, please let us know when you or a family member or a friend becomes homebound or enters a long-term care facility, so we can minister to you or them. Communication is so important and we don't want to be the last to hear about such transitions.

 

 

 

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