I wish to clarify something right away. I am an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC). I bring Holy Communion (Christ truly present in the consecrated Host) to Catholics who are homebound, hospitalized, in nursing homes, and in rehabilitation centers. Most of my visits are to those homebound and living alone.
Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is the proper term for the people involved in this ministry. We are NOT Eucharistic Ministers. That term is often used mistakenly about those who are EMHCs. The word “Eucharist” is never to be in our 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 25 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 eight (8) every Sunday. They all live alone and five of them are in their late nineties. Honestly, it makes my day. Ironically, it makes their day too (and sometimes 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 special notebook. I have compiled names of people I have brought Holy Communion to over the years in the back. 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 B.
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 took charge of 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.
George was an acrobat and, after the war, he joined the circus and was with them for over 20 years. He 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. When it was time for him to receive Our Lord, he would quiet down, get still, and just stare at the sacred Host as I gave it to him. What an honor that was.
Anne S. was 92 and would be dressed in her Sunday “best” 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 look to them and say, “Yes, I know. I do keep busy, and I am now a prayer warrior.” Anne has been gone for five years.
I will never forget my little pal, Scotty Walker. He became a St. Jude baby because of a tumor on his brain stem. That was in 1977 and, when he was diagnosed, he was only two years old. He was now 25. He was only 4 feet, 4 inches tall, and he started his own lawn service when he was about 17. He would wear a big straw hat, and his nose would be just above the lawnmower handle as he pushed it along. At the same time, he was studying for his GED. He worked his tail off until his body turned against him.
Scotty and I became good friends, and he would come over to my house and tell silly jokes, and I would laugh like crazy, slap my leg, and jump up and down. He knew I was doing it on purpose to make him feel good. He would laugh so hard. Tears would be streaming down his face. I brought him Communion every Sunday during the last two years of his life. He died in 2002 when he was 27. I still miss him—a lot.
The last lady I am profiling I have been seeing every Sunday for almost five years. Her name is Virginia, and Sunday, March 7, was her 99th birthday. She lives on the first floor of a six-story senior, independent living center. I arrived around 10 a.m. I have to go to the rear of the building to key in on the paging system. I accessed her number and dialed. 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 headed to her apartment window. I was not sure if she was sleeping, had fallen, or, God forbid, worse. I had to climb around four-foot-high hedges to get to the window. I made it over and began banging on her window. I promptly set off an alarm system. I finally left without having seen or talked to anyone. I’m not sure if anyone responded to the alarm. When I arrived home, I managed to get someone from management on the phone. They knew about Virginia but could not give me any information. I asked nicely, “Just cough if she is dead.”
“Sorry, sir, we will give your name and number to her son, who is her contact person.”
As goes the world of 2021, no one 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 was taken to the hospital. They quarantined her for two weeks, and she had returned home on Wednesday, March 31. I saw her Easter Sunday. I brought her flowers and a Mass card for Easter and her birthday. I intend to be at her 100th birthday celebration next year.
I have been blessed to be part of this ministry. I have seven people who received their Viaticum from me. It was not planned that way---it just happened. I pray to each of them all the time. My list includes over 40 people who have passed on, including my wives (one died in 2003 and the other in 2017).
I would suggest you look into 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.
Copyright© Larry Peterson 2021