Have Eucharist, Will Travel
By Alice Matisz
Lodge Mass Schedule
Fr. Kevin, Fr. Nathan and Fr. Francis Tran (Hospital Chaplain) regularly say mass at some of our lodges.
As Catholics, the Eucharist is central to our faith, so it can be wrenching to be denied access to it.
But that could happen when you no longer drive, or if you can’t sit for extended periods, or if health concerns preclude going outdoors, or if you have dementia. Any of these conditions can prevent one from getting to Mass. In our parish there are many who cannot come to church but still long for the Eucharist. Fortunately for these parishioners, a dedicated group of volunteers brings communion to them in their homes. From private houses to Extendicare, Legacy to Black Rock, Fairmont to The View - just about anywhere in East Lethbridge where there is a Catholic who has requested communion, All Saints has a volunteer to take it to them.
One such pair of volunteers is Jan and Bill Young. They collect a dozen hosts each Sunday morning during Mass. Immediately afterwards, they head for Black Rock Terrace where they conduct a prayer service and distribute communion. Each visit includes missal readings, prayers, petitions, and sometimes set up and take-down of the meeting area. At some homes, the residents are so enthusiastic about the ceremony that they arrange the gathering space themselves, with the same care and devotion as any Mass sacristan. At other locations, the residents might need assistance from the volunteers in getting to the meeting place. Whatever the arrangements are, one constant is the immense gratitude extended to Eucharistic ministers.
“(This ministry) makes you feel really good,” Jan Young said, “people are really happy to see you.”
Helen Manzara, who ministers with her husband Jim and 11-year-old daughter Tyree, echoed that sentiment, “the people who receive are ecstatic that you took the time to come see them,” she says. Besides the appreciation from participants, Helen and her family like the camaraderie that comes from visiting with folks after the service. Tyree is a special favorite, as seniors rarely get to enjoy the company of children.
“I appreciate them so much,” said Ivy Joevenazzo, a resident at Black Rock, speaking about all the volunteers who bring her communion. Ivy pointed out that at one time she used to be a Eucharistic minister herself.
Yet another minister, Anna Travaglia-Kellogg, focuses on the Alzheimer’s unit at Good Samaritans. She had this to say about her experience.
“You get grace; you become very humble when you look in the faces of these women. They are so grateful, even in their (limited) understanding. You just see the face of Jesus in them.”
Anna explained that most of the residents have no difficulty reciting prayers even when they can remember little else. ‘What we learn as young people stays with us,” Anna marvelled, “and these folks have practiced their faith.”
All the ministers noted that folk in Lethbridge lodges are often long-time members of our parishes. Many still contribute financially and take an active interest in parish activities. Eucharistic ministers take bulletins to the lodges and bring back any donation envelopes for sorting at the office. Although this ministry is thriving, more volunteers are always needed. Additional labour would reduce the strain on existing volunteers as well as allow for vacation coverage.
Asked what she would say to somebody considering this ministry, Anna said, “You have to love the old folks.”
Helen suggested, “It’s a wonderful way to see a different side of the Eucharist.”
But perhaps Jan said it best. “Come and try, come with us, and experience it!”