By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Catholic life.” For some, though, making it to Mass to receive holy Communion can be quite challenging.
“In our diocese, we have some faithful Catholics who are elderly, disabled or just physically unable to leave their homes and attend Mass or participate in the life of the parish,” said Kevin Prevou, associate director of Human Dignity and Respect for Life for the Diocese of Dallas Office of Catholic Social Ministries. “Fortunately, we have a growing number of parishioners in parishes across the diocese who serve as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion or as pastoral visitors to bring holy Communion and offer pastoral care to persons who are homebound.”
Ministering to the homebound has been a priority of Bishop Edward J. Burns, who witnessed the growing need for such a ministry with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the creation of the weekly diocesan televised Masses.
“The televised Mass has been a great blessing to me and to so many members of our diocesan family, especially those who are limited in participation in the holy Mass and in the life of their parishes,” said Bishop Burns, adding that the diocese plans to unveil a more robust homebound ministry initiative that will work in coordination with the televised Masses beginning Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent. “Our hope is to continue the care to you, our faithful, who are unable to participate in Sunday Mass.”’
The diocesan initiative includes the collaboration of three Ministries Offices: the Office of Communications via the televised Mass, the Office of Worship through the training of extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, and the Office of Catholic Social Ministries through its pastoral visitors program.
“For the Catholic Church, the care for those who are homebound emanates from our encounter with the risen Lord in the Eucharist,” said Peter J. Ductrám, diocesan senior director of ministries. “It is Christ that impels us to go out to those who long for him. Under the guidance of his Excellency, Bishop Burns, we are excited to continue this important ministry connected to the televised Mass.”
Santos Martinez, who serves as the director of the diocesan televised Mass, said the production is truly rooted in ministering to the people.
“While the televised Mass began out of necessity as a way to connect the faithful with the Church during the pandemic, it has grown into something more. It truly is a ministry,” he said. “With the addition of the homebound ministry, we will now be able to better connect those faithful who cannot attend Mass in person with parish communities.”
According to Prevou, the majority of parishes in the diocese already have established outreach to persons who are homebound where parishioners are commissioned by the pastor to bring the Eucharist to private homes, nursing care homes and hospitals upon request. Over the course of the last six months, the Ministries Office of the Diocese of Dallas has been coordinating with parishes to bolster and enhance this effort, training hundreds of parishioners to provide additional pastoral care for persons who are homebound.
“We have communicated with pastors and parish leaders about this diocesan-wide homebound ministry initiative,” Prevou said. “We have been working diligently to get the name and contact person of the parish coordinator of homebound ministry from each parish.”
Training for parish coordinators of homebound ministry — a staff member or parishioner that oversees and coordinates all pastoral visits — has been offered to parishes since May 2022 and will continue through 2023. Extraordinary minister of holy Communion training is available through the Diocese of Dallas Office of Worship while parish coordinator of homebound ministry and parish pastoral visitor training sessions are offered by the Office of Catholic Social Ministry.
“We are offering these trainings and support to parishes that want or need them,” Prevou said. “Parishes that already have a robust homebound outreach may choose to continue their ministry exactly as they have been. All parishes will benefit from more attention and support being placed on this ministry.”
The diocese also will offer continuing education opportunities for pastoral visitors and parish homebound ministry coordinators.
Jeanne Marie Miles, director of worship, coordinates the training sessions with extraordinary ministers.
“Extraordinary ministers of holy Communion are a vital component of parish ministry,” said Miles, adding that in addition to forming ministers in understanding the Church’s eucharistic theology and ministerial theology, reviewing vocabulary and the handling of sacred vessels, the Office of Worship provides specialized formation for those who will be ministering to the sick and homebound. “Our specialized formation includes a review of the Church’s rituals for Communion of the sick, Communion in hospitals and care centers, and viaticum (or, Communion of the dying), as well as best practices.”
For Prevou, the call of this healing ministry is personal.
“I grew up in San Antonio where our family fully participated in Mass, the sacraments, and the life of the parish,” he explained. “I spent a lot of time at home as a child, missing a lot of school and other activities in pretty severe pain from really swollen joints due to juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. This could have been a private struggle, limited to our family, but it wasn’t. Parishioners reached out to our family to offer support. Additionally, the pastor, associate pastor and the deacon came at different times to our home to pray with us and for my healing.
“I have never forgotten the authentic response of the parish to the struggle I was experiencing as a child when I was homebound,” Prevou added.
If you are a homebound Catholic who would like to receive the Eucharist or a pastoral visit, contact your parish office. If you are someone who is interested in learning more about being a pastoral visitor or parish homebound ministry coordinator through the diocese’s training program, visit www.cathdal.org/homebound-parishresources.