As a community, we always pray for the sick and homebound. Here at St. Michael the Archangel, a special group of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC) called Chaplains take the extra step to bring the Eucharist to individuals at Kona Community Hospital who are unable to attend Mass in person. By bringing our hospitalized brothers and sisters Holy Communion, visiting with them, and praying with them, this ministry connects us all by also bringing our prayers and hopes for their healing in a real tangible way.
“The Chaplains visit the sick at the hospital, offer prayers and spiritual support to the patients, and most importantly, our Catholic Chaplains offer the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ through the Eucharist,” says ministry leader Frances Vasquez. “Receiving the Eucharist is a healing balm for the soul that brings the Real Presence of Christ to them through Holy Communion.
“Visiting the sick is also a corporal and spiritual work of mercy,” Frances adds. “It is a way for Catholics to live out their faith using their time and talents to minister to the sick. Some patients may feel alone and forgotten. For many people, their ‘church family’ is as important to them as their biological family.”
The parish first screens volunteers as EMHCs, and after Fr. Lio approves them, they are commissioned to serve the parish, and trained and instructed on how to properly and respectfully bring Holy Communion to the sick and homebound. If they volunteer to visit the sick at the hospital, Frances will arrange for them to go through volunteer training and screening at Kona Community Hospital to become Hospital Chaplains. This requires an online orientation and training, filling out the required paperwork, a background check, and fingerprinting. For a hospital patient to request a visit, a family member or friend can call the parish office. Most often, however, Chaplains use the list of Catholic patients provided by the hospital.
“Any Catholic who is in good standing with the church can volunteer,” Frances says. “One of the things that I like about the hospital ministry is the convenience of choosing when I can visit, and I can go any time of day that is convenient for me.”
Chaplains are provided with three basic items from St. Michael — a special container called a pyx and a case called a burse, in which they carry the Holy Eucharist. They also receive a booklet called Communion of the Sick.
“When an EMHC is new to the hospital, I arrange to have them shadow me during a hospital visit,” Frances says. “I also show them all the locations in the hospital that they may need to eventually visit. I show them where the chapel is located and where I keep extra handouts or prayers for healing. Also, if they request it, I accompany them on their first solo visit. I want the volunteers to know that I am always available to answer questions or discuss any concerns they may have.”
When Frances visits a patient, she likes to prepare beforehand through prayer.
“I strive to see Christ in the face of every person that I serve, so I always spend a few minutes in prayer prior to going into the hospital,” she says. “I ask the Holy Spirit to be with me so I can best serve the people I visit and touch their hearts or comfort them through prayer. Sometimes I stay at church and pray after being given the Eucharist, or I’ll pray in my car before going in to see patients.”
She begins the visit by introducing herself as a Chaplain from St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church and explains that they are on the list of Catholic patients provided by the hospital.
“I generally visit with them for a few minutes,” Frances says. “I might ask where they live, or what parish they belong to, or where are they from to start a conversation. During my visit, I may tell people about something that spoke to me in the liturgy, or perhaps just remind people about the liturgical season or tell them about a saint who is special to me. If they are fallen-away Catholics, I invite them back to the Church and tell them that God is very merciful and He is waiting for them to return with open arms.”
Frances also came up with a beautiful prayer for healing, which she has made available to all of the Chaplains.
“I ask the patient if I can pray for them,” she says. “After the prayer, I offer Communion and follow the format provided in the Communion for the Sick booklet. This can be a time when people are vulnerable or are worried about their health. By bringing the Eucharist to them, I remind them that they are never alone, that God is always with them. Having someone from the Church visit is reassuring and comforting. Sometimes I see people’s faces light up with a big smile when I tell them I’m the Chaplain from St. Michael! They are so grateful for a visit.”
For more information about the ministry, or to get involved as a Chaplain, contact Frances Vasquez at 505-328-1727.