With its mission to "reveal the healing love of Jesus to those in need," Catholic Health responds to the spiritual needs of people of all faiths. As a ministry of the Catholic Church, the health system also serves the sacramental needs of its patients, bringing the healing presence of Jesus to the sick and injured in its hospitals and nursing homes.
I recently had the opportunity to train as a Eucharistic Minister through my home parish, Nativity of Our Lord in Orchard Park. When I learned there was a need for Eucharistic Ministers at Sisters Hospital in Buffalo, where I assist our chaplains and chaplains in training, I was more than happy to oblige. Being someone who receives Communion frequently, I understand the significance of what it means, and yet, for some reason, I was unaware of the impact this responsibility would have on me personally and spiritually.
On my first day serving Communion at the hospital, I shadowed one of our chaplains. I was so happy to get out on the clinical units and feel like I was helping to meet the needs of the sick in some small way. Little did I realize this is no small deed.
Our first visit was to a young woman who just had a major surgery. She spoke at length about her serious medical problems, telling us she would need heart surgery in the very near future. During our conversation, we asked her if she would like to receive Communion and she replied, "Yes, I guess I probably should." The next day, she suffered a major complication and passed away at age 23.
We often take life for granted. We assume that we will get out of bed, go to work, return home safely and go to sleep, only to start over again the next day.
I would like to reflect on the wonderful gift Catholic Health offers by giving its patients the opportunity to receive Holy Communion. Our Eucharistic ministers visit patients every day, supporting them at some of the most difficult times in their lives. They pass through the halls quietly and sometimes go unnoticed. Some people might not realize the significance of this ministry and think it's nice we offer this little "extra thing" to our patients.
From a patient's perspective, it means everything, and from a Eucharistic ministers' perspective, what a feeling to know, no matter what happens, through our ministry we are able to offer those who are sick the opportunity to receive and be prepared for our Lord.
In Catholic Health, we have skilled doctors, nurses and support staff to provide the highest quality care to our patients, to heal their bodies and restore their health. To be at peace spiritually, however, sometimes goes beyond anything we as humans or "healthy humans" can comprehend. How privileged we are at Catholic Health to provide such a divine ministry.
Cindy Zielinski is administrative assistant for Clinical Pastoral Education, Spiritual Care and Mission Integration at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo.