| By Father Dwight Ezop

Thanks, Mom!

Last month, I reflected on how important it is to me as a priest to be able to share the Eucharist with those who are sick or homebound. Helping others to feel connected to Jesus and his Church is a vital aspect of priestly ministry. As I reflect back on this, I have realized that this sense of the im-portance of the care for the sick and homebound was instilled in me even before I entered seminary. This month, to quote Paul Harvey, I’d like to share with you the rest of the story.

My mom, Jan, worked as a nurse for many years. Her career began in the 1950s right after her graduation from nursing school and college. Mom had a varied career that would see her work in surgery, obstetrics and finally, at the time of her retirement, as one who taught and supervised nurses and other health care professionals at a local hospital. She loved her work as a nurse because it provided her with a sense of making a real difference in the lives of people who were sick or suffering in many ways, or those who experiencing the joy of welcoming new life into the world. Mom often reflected that through the course of her career she was able to offer a great deal of care and support to her patients, their families, and the staff with whom she worked through the years.

Following her retirement, mom was looking for a way to become more involved in the daily life of her parish community. One day, as she was visiting with her pastor, he suggested that becoming a Eucharistic minister to the homebound would be a good fit for her, given her background and experience. From the moment Fr. Brendan mentioned the possibility to her, mom took to that ministry with energy and passion.

Following a brief training and orientation, mom was assigned a small group of people to visit. Many of them lived in a senior apartment community not far from our home, and so every weekend, right after Mass, mom would go to church with her pyx (the small container used to reverently transport the Eucharist), obtain the Eucharist, and begin the rounds that would take her to visit between four and six people each week. Mom had that rare talent of being able to strike up a conversation with just about anyone, no matter the circumstances, and she loved those opportunities to visit with the sick and elderly. They had wonderful stories to share each week, and mom saw how deeply they appreciated receiving Christ in the Eucharist, as she witnessed the joy and peace that those simple visits brought to so many. She would often share those stories on Sunday afternoons, and they were never lost on me.

Eventually, mom’s diminished mobility would mean that she had to give up those weekly visits. Yet, although she could no longer visit people in their homes, she graciously agreed to become the person who trained and coordinated those who would continue that ministry in her parish community. It was at about that time that I entered seminary. As that journey began, mom wanted to make sure that I had a pyx of my own to carry the Eucharist to the sick and homebound that I would visit. Thus, one afternoon, she gave me the pyx that she had used all those years. It has a beautiful porcelain top with the image of a communion host on it. The pyx’s gold plating is a little worn, but it still shines. That pyx is now a part of the sick call and emergency kit that I keep in my car. Every time I have brought Eucharist to someone at home, in the hospital or in hospice care, I have carried it in that pyx that my mom gave me all those years ago. I love the idea that each time I use it, I am touching something that she touched, and I am engaging in a ministry that brought her great joy because it brings comfort to those who are being visited. I also realize that it is through the gift of the Eucharist that I remain in touch with mom, even though she died eight years ago.

Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of that connection through the gift of your Body and your Blood. Thanks, too, mom, for teaching me about the beauty and importance of sharing that gift with the sick and the suffering. I remember that each time I use the pyx you gave me to carry Christ to others. And so, our journey in FAITH continues.

Father Dwight Ezop is the editor-in-chief of FAITH Magazine and pastor of St. Mary Parish, Charlotte and St. Ann Church, Bellevue.