Health care ministry during COVID-19
With a hospital and several assisted living, rehabilitation and nursing home facilities nearby, health care ministry is an important outreach at St. Peter Parish in Olney.
“We may have as many as 75 to 100 people at a time who have an extraordinary health care need, for whom we provide accompaniment and sacraments,” said Fr. Tom Kalita, pastor at St. Peter’s. “Often, they are feeling lonely and bereft, which affects their ability to heal.”
The restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic have been difficult for carrying out this ministry. Parish volunteers, priests, and deacons who once brought the Eucharist weekly, and prayed and visited with patients and residents have not been able to go into local medical care facilities and retirement residences for the past two months. The parish continues to pray for those who are ill or elderly, but in-person visits are on hold.
Fr. Kalita has been allowed one visit, to minister to a woman nearing death. He had to wear proper protective gear and follow strict protocols, which included using a Q-tip dipped in the sacred oil to anoint her.
“It took as long to get suited up as the time I was there praying. I think of the people who need to put on and take off the protective gear. It is hard,” Fr. Kalita noted.
Another day, a call came into the parish from the hospital across the street. Two Catholic patients were nearing death. The hospital was closed to visitors, but could something be done? Armed with the patients’ room numbers, Fr. Kalita stood in front of the hospital and, one-by-one, turned in the direction of each of the rooms, gave conditional absolution, and said the prayers for the dying.
Across Maryland, clergy and volunteers are finding new ways to be present for those who are medically fragile and elderly, and to continue to do what they can to serve.
As Father Mike Tietjen, pastor of Immaculate Conception in Mechanicsville, recently told the Catholic Standard about his own ministry with COVID patients, “We are going in there because Jesus asked us to do this. We are being prudent, we are being smart, but we are doing what we always have done … We are coping with this situation. The Church has coped with pandemics before. It's the first time for us, but not for the Church.”
Catholic Hospitals in Maryland
- Ascension/St. Agnes
- MedStar Good Samaritan
- Mercy Medical Center
- Holy Cross Health
- University of Maryland St. Joseph Health Center
Ethics of Vaccines
Several U.S. bishops, who chair committees for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently urged the FDA to to ensure that vaccines for COVID-19 are developed ethically and are free from any connection to abortion. READ THE LETTER HERE
Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Prevention
Advocates and lawmakers in Maryland have expressed concern over a rise in domestic violence and child abuse incidents during stay-in-place orders. If you are being abused or if you suspect someone is being abused, please get help now.
- Domestic violence hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233); online chat: TheHotline.org
- Report child abuse: maryland.gov/reportchildabuse
Mental Health Services
- Maryland Department of Health Mental Health crisis helpline: 211, press 1, or text 898-211
- A short video on managing anxiety during coronavirus (Saint Luke Institute)