By Terry Supancic
What an honor it is to bring the Body of Christ to the Body of Christ. Distributing Communion at Mass and now at St. Joseph Health Center in Warren, OH, has enriched my life, and I hope the lives of others. Volunteering with a pastoral care team has given me insight into the ministry as well as the dynamics of ministering to one another. Including volunteers in this ministry lets me do the work of the disciples in a setting that is needed.
The chaplains are open and eager to share their wisdom and practical advice as we work to meet patients’ needs. Being a part of a committed group has helped me to grow in my own spirituality and expand my confidence to share faith and prayer. The chaplains have taught me by example to respond to the patients, and also to know when to refer to them for more in-depth issues. As people struggle with illness or are facing death, we listen for cues that would signal a need to talk to a professional. Social workers as well as chaplains may be needed, as the healthcare system is ever changing. I may be the eyes and ears to help in a very important way as I go in and out of the patients’ rooms.
As I enter the hospital, I ask God to be with me as I prepare to meet the challenges of the day. I ask that I may have the words to comfort and the patience to listen to those who are suffering. I ask that I will invite those who have been struggling with their faith to be open to the Spirit as we pray and share. Going to the tabernacle to get the hosts is a quiet time to say a prayer for all the work going on in the hospital. I try to pray, and act, in a way that gives dignity to all involved and praise to God, who makes it all possible. Walking through the halls is a reminder to all employees that we are all ministers to each other. Everyone is important to the mission of the hospital.
Entering a patient’s room and washing my hands reminds me of Mass and linking this sick person to the greater community that I represent. Being a member of the Catholic Church unites us to all of the faithful. The introductions are brief, but the eyes of the patients say so much as we offer communion to them. All those in pain, those confused from being old, and those in joy from good news are grateful to have the opportunity to receive the strength that the Eucharist brings. The words of the Our Father bring comfort and open memories that bring them to a safe place to be with God. An inner light becomes brighter as we recite the prayer together.
This life journey that we all share is made better by the encounters we have with Christ. The ministry to help each other is done in so many different ways, and I am privileged to bring Holy Communion to those in the hospital. I encounter Christ through them.
em>Terry Supancic is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at St. Joseph Health Center in Warren, OH. Before retiring, she served as a pastoral associate at Blessed Sacrament Parish in the Diocese of Youngstown.