A Diocesan committee focusing on Ministry to the Sick and Homebound has been formed in order to provide information, support, formation and training for this ministry. Suffering, illness and loneliness have always troubled the human spirit and as believers we reach out in love to those who suffer because we see in them the image of Christ. Throughout his public ministry, Jesus welcomed the stranger, healed the sick, offered forgiveness and expressed his eagerness to give rest to the weary and the burdened. As church we continue Jesus’ ministry of caring for the sick with compassion and respect by visiting them and using signs of healing through sacraments and sacramentals.
“A Christian community is a healing community not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains become opening or occasions for a new vision” (Henri Nouwen, “The Wounded Healer”). A wounded healer’s task is not to take away the pain, but to enter into it, to a depth where it can be shared. This deepening process begins a sacred journey by acknowledging that we share one another’s wounds. We feel wounded when others are wounded. Our shared journey prevents us from distancing ourselves from others and so our goal as ministers to the sick and homebound is to give people and their families an experience of a safe listening environment through which spiritual, emotional and physical healing can occur.
God alone knows what kind of healing the sick need most: that a wound may be healed, that a fear turn into confidence, that loneliness be embraced, by the support of a praying community, that confusion in the face of all the whys may be clarified. If you have ever been told by others that you are a kind, caring person or that you are a good listener perhaps this ministry may appeal to you. As ministers to the sick we do not teach, preach, advise or attempt to fix a patient’s personal problems. Our focus is more challenging – to truly “be with” others in times of suffering as a caring presence.
Father Robert McKay and Deacon Willy Agbayani are conducting a training program of ministering to the sick beginning March 30. In light of the healing mission of Jesus, and love of God, neighbor and self, planned presentations will focus on the art of holy listening, the fundamental nature of the pastoral encounter, and the rituals for Holy Communion and prayer. The subjects covered include: An overview of Pastoral Care; Spiritual Pain; the Emotional Needs of Patients; Spiritual Assessment; Listening Skills, Social versus Spiritual Care Visits; End-of-Life/Grief Issues; Palliative Care.
Training sessions are held once a month at Regional Medical Center or O’Connor Hospital from 6-7:30 p.m. It is the hope that as a diocese we can offer a program at least once each year to recruit and train pastoral visitors and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion who can help our parish communities by offering services to hospitals, nursing institutions and homebound members of our parish communities.