By Larry Peterson
I wish to clarify something right away. I am NOT a Eucharistic Minister. I am an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC). Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is the proper term for the people involved in this ministry. The term, “Eucharist” is never to be in their title. That term is reserved for the priest alone. (see Redemptionis Sacramentum).
I have been involved in many ministries over the years and have been an EMHC for 23 years. For me, nothing can compare to being an EMHC. It is all about Jesus, the person receiving Jesus, and you being the one who has brought them together. It does not get any better than that.
I rarely miss a visit to my homebound friends. As of this writing, I visit nine (9) every Sunday. Five of them are in their nineties. Honestly, it makes my day. Ironically, it makes their day too, (and sometime their week) because they hardly see anyone during the week except home-health aides and folks like that. All I come with is a smile, a church bulletin, maybe a prayer card and, of course, their BEST FRIEND.
I have a journaling book, and in the back, I have compiled names of people I have brought Holy Communion to over the years. I want to share a few of these folks with you. These are Catholic people who have lived their Catholic lives to the best of their ability. Many of them were children during the Great Depression and lived through World War II and into the 21st century. Like my friend, George.
George was in the U.S. Navy and stationed in London in 1940 during the Blitzkrieg. He survived that, came home and wound up at Pearl Harbor. He was there on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked. He and a Marine corporal manned a 50 caliber machine gun and shot down two Japanese Zeroes. The two of them then proceeded to pull men out of the burning water near the USS Arizona.
After the war, he was in the circus for over 20 years. George died several years ago at the age of 97. I loved his stories. He was a walking history book, and he would get all animated when he was telling you about his adventures. I brought him Communion every Sunday for more than two years. What an honor that was.
She was 90 and would be dressed to the “T” every Sunday when I arrived. She would ask, “Why does God keep me here, Larry?”
“Anne,” I would say. “He needs Prayer Warriors. That’s what you are, and that’s why you are here. There are many souls in Purgatory. They need your help.”
She would always smile and point to her Rosary and her prayer books on the table next to her. She would point to them and say, “Yes, I know. I do keep busy.” Recruiting “prayer warriors” is an important part of what I do. Anne has been gone for five years.
And my little pal, Scotty.
He was a St. Jude baby because of a tumor on his brain stem. That was in 1977 when he was only two years old. He was now 25. Only 4 feet, 4 inches tall; he started his own lawn service when he was about 17.
Scotty wore a big straw hat, and his nose would be just above the lawn mower handle as he pushed it along. At the same time, he was studying for his GED. He worked his tail off until he could not any longer. I brought him Communion every Sunday during the last two years of his life. He died in 2002 when he was 27. I miss him a lot.
I have been seeing Virginia every Sunday for almost five years now. Sunday, March 7, was her 99th birthday. She lives on the first floor of a senior independent living center.
I arrived at the center around 10 a.m. I went to the rear of the building to use the paging system, accessed her number and dialed, but there was no answer. I kept hoping someone would leave so the doors would open, but no one came out.
Since she lived on the first floor, I walked around to her apartment window. I was not sure if she was sleeping, had fallen, or, God forbid, worse. I climbed around four-foot-high hedges to get to the window and began banging on it only to off an alarm system.
No one came so I finally gave up and left.
When I arrived home, I managed to get someone from the center’s management on the phone. They could not give me any information. I asked nicely, “Just cough if she is dead.”
“Sorry, sir,” was the reply. “We will give your name and number to her son, who is her contact person.”
No one ever called. I had the church office call twice, and the pastor himself called, to no avail.
On April 1, Holy Thursday, Virginia called the church office looking for me. (She could not find my number.) She had fallen and had been taken to the hospital. They quarantined her for two weeks, and she had returned home on Wednesday, March 31.
I was finally able to visit Virginia again on Easter Sunday. I brought her flowers and a Mass card for Easter and her birthday. And when her 100th birthday is celebrated next year I intend to be there.
A Rewarding Ministry
I have been blessed to part of this ministry. Seven of the people I visited received Viaticum from me. It was not planned that way – it just happened. I pray for each of them all the time. So far, my list includes over 40 people who have passed on, including my wives (my first wife died in 2003, and my second wife died in 2017).
I would suggest you look in to being part of this ministry. You get to leave the church accompanied by Jesus. Then the two of you get to go visiting His homebound or hospitalized people. It is a beautiful thing.