Homebound ministries bring the love and grace of the Triune God to Catholics who are not able to come to the parish to receive the sacraments or to attend other activities. Most often, homebound ministries consist of hearing confession, anointing the sick or baptizing, as a priest would do; and providing Communion, catechizing or providing friendship and assistance, as either a priest or lay person commissioned in that ministry might do.
The opportunity for a lay member of a parish to support the faith of a homebound person gives both parties the opportunity to evangelize with each other. Usually, the person visiting a homebound individual feels called to the ministry. The person who is homebound is often delighted to share a few moments of a day with someone who is able to bring Christ into their lives in a tangible form.
Dottie Brown is a parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish in Warsaw. She became Catholic at 28 years old, after growing up Protestant in Missouri and marrying a military man. She and her husband moved often over the next 20 years, and over time she was exposed to and accepted Catholic doctrine.
Brown said whether they lived in Virginia, Missouri or California, she became involved in the local Catholic church. She helped decorate the church for holidays and major feast days, was a eucharistic minister and served on funeral luncheon committees. Living just a few miles from Sacred Heart, in recent years she has been there frequently to help with various projects.
A few weeks ago, Brown gave up her car. Since then, she said, she really appreciates being able to continue receiving the sacraments. A need for oxygen and the lack of transportation mean that she watches Sunday Mass on Eternal Word Television Network. Later in the day, someone brings her Communion.
Terri Ferro of Fort Wayne, sees fellow St. Vincent de Paul parishioner Geraldine Thompson weekly in Thompson’s home. Bringing the body of Christ to her and others who are homebound, Ferro said, “is the most wonderful gift, in a very intimate face-to-face setting.”
“Bringing people Communion makes them feel more connected to the Church through me. That’s a beautiful blessing.”
Thompson, who has acquired significant medical conditions that make it necessary for her to stay in her home, is grateful for the homebound services provided by the parish.
She graduated in a class of 16 students from the former St. Paul grade school in downtown Fort Wayne before heading onto Central Catholic High School. She married in 1952 and worked for Lincoln Bank for 26 years while raising her four children – now ages 59, 62, 64 and 66 years old. She has also volunteered with Science Central, Matthew 25, Miss Virginia’s Food Pantry and Parkview Hospital.
Now her telephone rings three or four times a week with a call from Rosie Grady, “just to check in.” One of her three daughters lives a few houses from her and can assist her with tasks as she needs it. She also looks forward to the visits from Father Fernando Polycarp during her frequent hospital stays, and from Ferro as well as a second woman, also named Terri, who bring her Communion on alternating weeks.
“I am very thankful to be able to receive Jesus. It makes me feel closer to God.”
A frequent participant in the Heart of the Nation Mass provided by the diocese on television, Thompson said nothing beats human contact.
Although Ferro has dedicated much of her Sunday to homebound ministry for more than 15 years, she’s still eager to help those who are unable to drive, have a temporary or permanent disability or are elderly. Currently, she works with six people. Some she sees every week, some every other week and others once a month.
Regardless of how frequent the visit, she has built such friendships with the people she serves. There’s Virginia Gase, for example, who at 95 needs a ride to the doctor because her grown children are already in their 70s.
Ferro provides the ride. And while she said she “absolutely loves ministry,” she also realizes that she might be the one requesting homebound ministry someday. Until then, she intends to continue “paying it forward.”
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