The Diocese of Wilmington is looking for extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist who can serve Catholic patients at Christiana Care’s Wilmington Hospital.
The hospital is nearing the completion of its $210 million expansion and renovation project this year, which includes 120 more patient beds in its new 300,000 plus square feet of space.
Father Clemens Manista, who runs the Catholic chaplain program for the diocese at both Christiana’s Newark and Wilmington hospitals, said recently, “We would like to get more volunteers for the Wilmington Hospital so that every day two people will be helping there.”
Helping means visiting and taking Communion to people in the hospital who identified themselves as Catholic when they were admitted.
Currently, some 60 eucharistic ministers help Father Manista and other priests who serve as chaplains at the Newark facility. The 60 volunteers take turns each week there, visiting assigned patient floors and distributing Communion.
Terry Rave, who is a eucharistic minister at Wilmington’s Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, has been taking the sacrament to Wilmington Hospital patients for about six or seven years.
Now, he sees about 30 to 35 patients on his hospital visits there, he said. “It’s probably going to go up” when the expansion is complete.
Rave estimates about 10 to 12 eucharistic ministers currently volunteer at the hospital.
“From the time you get there until leaving the parking lot, it takes about two-and-a-half to three hours,” Rave said.
Not everyone he visits receives Communion, he said, but when they say ‘no,’ “they do it nicely. They still say, ‘Gee, thanks for coming in.’”
Get more than you give
Still, most people Rave visits “are very appreciative, so are their relatives.
“I’ve never had anyone be nasty to me,” he added. “It’s one of those ministries where you get more than you give. I walk out of the hospital every Tuesday and you’re always thankful for what you have. So many patients have so much faith and they’re so courageous. You’ve got to be thankful.”
While Rave said he and other volunteers can take Communion on most days to Wilmington Hospital, it doesn’t always happen that a substitute can be found for a volunteer who can’t make it.
Father Manista said when eucharistic ministers arrive at Wilmington Hospital they receive a census form at the front desk listing Catholic patients that was sent the night before from the pastoral office at Christiana Hospital.
Each Wilmington volunteer then signs in for the day at a room just off the hospital’s chapel and obtains the Blessed Sacrament for the patients who will receive Communion.
While the diocese certifies eucharistic ministers for parishes, the volunteers for hospital ministry are also required to receive training in issues such as safety for visiting the sick from Christiana Care before they begin their hospital duties.
“You learn fairly quickly,” Rave said. The Wilmington Hospital staff “is really super. They’re very helpful and they’ll do anything for you.”
That includes $5 off on lunch at the hospitals’ cafeterias and inviting eucharistic ministers to an appreciation event each year at Deerfield Country Club, Father Manista said.
But the hospital chaplain, who also serves as pastor of St. Paul’s Church in Delaware City, said the greatest reward is bringing Christ to patients, being the representative of the church’s community when people are feeling “isolated and separated from the community. Eucharistic ministers fulfill that role for all patients. They are fulfilling that responsibility for all the baptized to care for one another in our journey of life.”
Eucharist ministers interested in volunteering at Wilmington Hospital can call Father Manista at 302-834-4321.