Editor’s Note: As part of our “Comfort and Joy” Advent/Christmas blog series, FMS board member and returned missioner Doug Garofalo shares some of his experiences from his time on mission in Brazil.
At my home Parish of St. Peter’s in River Edge, NJ, there is a ritual at the end of each Mass whenever there is a Eucharistic Minister bringing the Body of Christ to those who are sick or homebound. Prior to the closing prayers, the celebrant priest invites the minister to the foot of the altar to receive the pyx (the small round container used to carry the consecrated host to those unable to come to church.)
The priest says a prayer and we, as a parish, send the minister on his or her way with our collective prayers.
Most times I know the Eucharistic Minister and perhaps who they are going to visit; other times, I don’t have a clue. But from my own personal experience, I do know the comfort and joy that both parties feel in this short time together.
In 2006-07, I served as a Franciscan Mission Service missioner in Uberlandia, Brazil. One of my ministries there was to accompany Sonia, Terazinha, and Maria, Eucharistic Ministers from the local Franciscan Parish, as they visited up to 15 shut-ins or ill parishioners each Tuesday.
Many of these people were long time parishioners and their adult children and grandchildren were active parishioners too, so the ladies knew them well. We would chat a bit with each one, sometimes longer if the ladies were helping them with doctor’s appointments or other trips outside the house or apartment. We would pray, administer the Eucharist, sometimes have coffee and a snack, then give a final blessing and be on our way to our next friend.
I referred to them as “friend,” since week after week, I did forge friendships with many of them and their families. We would talk about life there in Brazil and my life back here in the States. Often during my time in Brazil, I was invited to several family celebrations of these friends and, on occasion, attended the funeral services for those who passed away.
One who passed away was Antonio. He was very ill and a new addition to our list of visits. His wife Maria told us that it had been so long since he was able to attend Mass. Antonio, using an oxygen tank to help him breathe, thanked us profusely even though he was barely able to speak. When he gave me a firm handshake and our eyes met, I knew of Antonio’s joy in what would be the final days of his life. In speaking with his wife after his passing, Maria said he was at peace because of our visit.
In this Christmas Season, pray for all Eucharistic Ministers and others who visit the sick and homebound, as they are truly giving and receiving “Comfort and Joy.”
Question for reflection: Are there members of your community that are isolated either literally or figuratively? How can you go the extra step and welcome them?
Doug Garofalo is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) with more than 20 years of experience in the business world. Since returning from mission with Franciscan Mission Service (Brazil 2005-2009), he has served as an accountant for a firm that specializes in providing accounting and advisory services to small to medium sized non-profits in Northern New Jersey and New York City. He currently serves on the FMS board of directors.
Featured image: adaptation of photo by Flickr user Aleteia Image Department – labeled for reuse.