Volunteers to provide pastoral care to the sick are sought for training

Ruth Lowe visits patients each Friday at University of Louisville Hospital as part of her volunteer ministry with the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Family Ministries Office’s pastoral care to the sick program. The ministry is in need of additional volunteers to visit patients at hospitals, nursing homes and to the homebound. (Record Photo by Jessica Able)

Whether it’s your first time in a hospital or the 50th, the feelings of fear and worry are always present. A group of volunteers from the Archdiocese of Louisville seek to alleviate some of that trepidation with a dose of prayer and a kind word.

The Archdiocese of Louisville’s Family Ministries Office will offer a six-part training program for those who wish to minister to the sick in hospitals, nursing homes or to the homebound.

Ruth Lowe has been a part of this ministry for a decade. She visits University of Louisville Hospital each Friday to provide a prayerful presence for patients and their families.

Though she had some previous experience visiting patients in hospice, Lowe initially thought she wasn’t a good fit for this ministry. Like many people, she didn’t have particularly fond recollections of hospitals.

“For me, hospitals always meant bad news. To go to a hospital voluntarily was not something I even thought about but somehow, I know, God led me to that,” she explained in a phone interview last week.

Lowe, a parishioner of St. Louis Bertrand Church, said she’s glad she answered the call to visit and pray with the sick, one of the corporal works of mercy.

“This ministry has brought me a whole new recognition about how much we need each other, how much people who are in a situation who are really powerless, need someone to come and say ‘I see you, I hear you and I pray for you,’ ” she said.

She noted she doesn’t do this ministry alone.

“When I approach that hospital door, I know it’s not just me entering the room. I could never do it if it were just me. God is with me,” she said.

Denise Puckett of the Family Ministries Office, said this ministry is a way for the local church to support patients and their families in times of struggle.

Puckett is the family services project coordinator, which means she serves as a liaison between both the Family Ministries Office and Catholic Charities of Louisville to assist in designing, implementing and coordinating programs and services for families.

She also provides training and support for those who minister to the families and individuals within the community and the Catholics they reach beyond the parish community.

The goal of the ministry, Puckett said, is to be the presence of Christ, “to show acceptance, love and compassion.”

Patients “are at a vulnerable place in their life,” she noted. “They need that supportive, listening and compassionate presence to know they are not alone, to know someone is with them.”

Participation in this ministry is flexible. There are no set hours. Volunteers may select days and times that fit into their schedules.

Hospital volunteers visit Baptist Health Louisville, Jewish Hospital, University of Louisville Hospital and Mary & Elizabeth Hospital. Patients are self-identified on hospital admittance paperwork.

The names of those to visit in nursing homes or in their homes are provided by parishes.

Volunteers also are asked to attend quarterly meetings and an annual retreat.

The upcoming training sessions will be held at St. Margaret Mary Church, 7813 Shelbyville Road, in the parish’s Spirituality Center on five consecutive Wednesday evenings and one Monday evening from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Following is the schedule and list of topics:

March 4 — Introduction to pastoral care

March 11 — Pastoral communication skills

March 18 — Prayer

March 25 — Understanding loss and grief

March 30 — Taking Communion to the sick and homebound

April 1 — Self-awareness/boundaries

The cost of each is $10; participants may attend any or all sessions.

To register or for more information, contact Denise Puckett at 636-0296, ext. 1268 or dpuckett@archlou.org.

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