EMHCs keep Catholic patients connected to sacraments
COLORADO SPRINGS. “I was so happy and surprised to receive Holy Communion, this isn’t even a Catholic hospital,” stated one patient when speaking about having a visit from Herman Jasper.
Herman and his wife Cleta have been volunteering as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHCs) at Memorial Hospital for over 23 years. The Jaspers are members of St. Patrick Parish and are among the 30 EMHCs that serve in this ministry at Memorial’s two hospitals. A few of the EMHCs volunteer at both hospital settings.
“We are always looking to have more EMHC volunteers” stated Evelyn McCort, who assists in managing the scheduling calendar at Memorial Central (Paul Baerman schedules at Memorial North). Most volunteers sign up from one to four days a month. It would be ideal to have two EMHCs scheduled for each day at Memorial Central and one at Memorial North. Memorial Central averages 40 Roman Catholic patients a day and Memorial North averages six Roman Catholic patients.
Chaplain Christopher Keith tracks the patient visits for the Spiritual Care Department. He reports that more than 1200 patients have received Holy Communion from the EMHCs so far this year. Last year, more than 4400 received Holy Communion out of around 13,000 Catholic patients. Almost 1,000 of these were at Memorial North. Many who identified themselves as Roman Catholic are unable to receive Holy Communion due to their medical condition or for personal reasons, but for these patients, EMHCs provide companionship and prayer.
Father Michael Butler, a member of the Spiritual Care Department at Memorial, celebrates Mass and visits patients on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Many of the patient referrals he receives come from the EMHCs.
“Father Mike is such a gift to our department,” said Rev. Nathan Mesnikoff, director of Spiritual Care. “It is great having him available to meet the very specific pastoral care needs of the Catholic patients.”
About 20 percent of patients list their faith affiliation as Roman Catholic. When there is a sacramental emergency at either hospital, the staff chaplains first attempt to contact the patient’s parish priest. If the patient does not belong to a parish or is from out of town, the priest who is on call is contacted. This list of on-call priests is nicknamed “the Beeper Brothers.”
Anyone who is interested in joining this rewarding ministry experience should contact Chaplain Christopher Keith at 719-365-1457 or Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers will need to provide an acknowledgement of Diocese of Colorado Springs training and reference letters from their pastors.
(Christopher Keith is a chaplain with Memorial Health System.)