Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Learning Experience - Ministering to Those in Their Sunset Years Who Require Assistance

Recently a group of the aged and infirm from a local assisted living home have started coming to Mass. I think it's a newly built home.  They come on a shuttle bus with staff members from the home, and the ushers mobilize to help them off the bus and into the seats in the church. These particular elderly people sit in the back though there is plenty of room up front, and they are certainly welcomed up front. There's room up front for walkers and wheelchairs too. This group comes with walkers and in wheelchairs, canes, and oxygen tanks.

So I was an Eucharist Minister and had to walk to their seats to give them Communion, and I'm always happy to do that for those who can't make it up to Communion. (There are people who do get in line with their walkers, wheelchairs, and canes.) The ushers direct me to those who are seated but wish to receive. It was a bit awkward because it was a learning experience for me. I'll do better next time, I hope.

  • They can't always see so well. So I or someone had to tell a few people I am there with the Host to give them Communion.
  • They can't always hear so well. I tend to speak softly because the people in the pews around them are praying, and I want to keep it reverent. However, I need to speak in at least a normal tone of voice. The idea is to communicate.
  • Sometimes they receive by hand, and their hands or arms don't work too well. 
  • Some can't chew or swallow too well or don't open their mouths wide enough. I need to give them a small piece. I accidently gave a woman two Hosts because they were stuck together. Then I was worried she would choke or it would fall out.
  • One staff member from the assistant living home said, "May I?" I gave the piece of Host to Miss Staff Member, and she knew exactly how to feed it to a resident. I half-worried that I broke some Canon law, but I made the quick decision that Jesus doesn't want to anyone to choke to death in church. Also, without the trained staff member assisting, the Host may have dribbled out onto the woman's blouse. That wouldn't have been good. The staff member had a respectful demeanor and therefore, treated the Sacrament with respect. I don't know if she was Catholic or not. I did give the other staff member Communion because she held out her hands to receive. After all, she couldn't leave her charges to get in the Communion line and go up front.
  • Some of the assistant living residents seemed they just woke up. Maybe they just did, or maybe they have a touch of dementia. Where they even aware of the significance of the Sacrament or that they were at Mass? I wondered, but realized NOT FOR ME TO DETERMINE.

I went back to my seat and just asked God to sort it all out. God knows the heart and mind and soul of those residents. God knows the road they have traveled so far. God knows I tried my best and my ignorance (though I'm a little bit smarter today). Jesus wants all to partake, and everyone is welcomed at Mass. I know people receive graces in ways I don't know. It's not up to me to determine eligibility. It is up to me to be the best instrument I can be.

However, I think I'm going to shoot an email to the rectory or call that perhaps we Extraordinary Ministers need training in ministering to special populations in Church.


All in His Perfect Timing said...

I think it is AWESOME that this group of seniors comes to Mass & also that you are so catering to them and their needs as well!!! I think you are doing such a great job at managing the awkward (hey, a first time doing anything is awkward)!
I would say that getting "training" on the proper methods of Communion for seniors is a great way to help other people who are Eucharistic Ministers feel more comfortable too.

Becky said...

Very good!
I used to go to daily mass with my mom at a nursing home where she volunteers. It is somewhat amusing, as a lot of the residents often fall asleep during Mass. They are woken up to receive Holy Communion though, and most of them are half-deaf. It's hard not to smile when our very soft spoken priest has to practically shout at them, "The Body of Christ!"

My Dad was like these people towards the end of his life. My mom would wheel him into the confessional, and he would just say, "Forgive me, forgive me". He didn't know what sins to say because he was so far into his dementia, but he knew that he was a sinner and that's the most important thing to take Home with us. :-)