Pastoral Home Care: A Ministry of Discipleship and ResponsibilityHi Fi Vol. 125 (2007) Number 5
Upon my retirement as the director of Pastoral Services at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Cornwall, Ontario, where I worked for eight years, I reviewed many of my collected documents. One, in particular, was on the statistics of the age of the deceased. I found that the average age of life expectancy coincided with the Canadian national average of 72 for men and 78 for women. In 2006, national statistics indicated that there were over 1,000 centenarians. The prospect of a longer life span initiates taking a new look at the definition of "Old Age". Many individuals over 65 contribute greatly to family and community life. Therefore, how does one define "Old Age"?
Parishes in our diocese are experiencing the Canadawide phenomenon of an aging population. Many misconceived notions of Old Age happen because of illdefined concepts: for example, some might say, "all persons over 65 are frail, mentally weak, physically and mentally incapacitated, and socially unable to function." This is far from reality. In fact, the majority of the Pastoral Home Care (PHC) volunteers in our diocese are between the ages of 50 and 75. They are extremely capable and offer their services to visit the sick and shut-ins, bringing consolation, reassurance, and spiritual support.
"And when was it that we saw you sick?" (Mt 25:39). The reality is that many people in our communities, the young as well as the elderly, are ill and frail. Many are institutionalized, or housebound. As a result, these parishioners are now unable to participate in parish life, including liturgical celebrations.
Pastoral Home Care teams are being formed in parishes to reach out to the faithful. This is an answer to the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, the living and vibrant word of God, which calls us to love through works of charity. One way in which we are asked to live out God's will is to reach out to the lonely, the elderly, the sick, and the shut-ins and strive to keep them connected to their parish. In so doing, they foster a sense of communion with the ecclesial community, a sense of belonging to the Body of Christ.
To date, we have approximately 150 PHC volunteers in 15 participating parishes. Each year, they make over 6,751 home and institutional pastoral visits. Pastoral visitors, who bring Holy Communion or accompany priests to healthcare institutions, distribute over 6,000 communions during the year.
In short, Parish Home Care volunteers, in simple acts of presence, strive to validate the selfworth of the person, and enable him/her to feel connected to their parish faith community.
Deacon Robert Zankoski
Pastoral Home Care Services
Pastoral Home Care Services