By JOANNE FOX
The Eucharist is a spiritual food that strengthens Catholics to live out their Christian lives. For the sick, it nourishes and gives them spiritual strength.
Father Anthony Nwudah, chaplain at Mercy Medical Center – Sioux City, expressed his gratitude for individuals serving as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, but he emphasized that more volunteers are needed.
“As a Catholic hospital, daily reception of the Eucharist for the Catholic patients is a priority,” he said.
Father Nwudah joined the spiritual care team of the hospital in 2016. He previously served as a tribunal judge in the Diocese of Austin, Texas, where he received his Clinical Pastoral Education at Seton Medical Center and became board-certified with the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.
On the average, about 30 patients a day will indicate their wish to receive the Eucharist, Father Nwudah reported.
Eucharistic ministers assist the spiritual care team to ensure that Catholic patients who wish to receive Communion every day – who are unable to attend Mass in the hospital chapel – have the Eucharist brought to them in their rooms.
Volunteers come primarily from parishes in the Diocese of Sioux City, but Father Nwudah emphasized ministers from nearby parishes in the Archdiocese of Omaha and Diocese of Sioux Falls would be welcomed and be expected to comply with diocesan guidelines.
“We have about 13 eucharistic ministers,” he said. “But the challenge is how often they volunteer. Some volunteers are only available once a week, some are available twice a month, and some are available only once a month.”
“When someone offers to distribute Communion, we work with the Diocese of Sioux City to make sure they have met the requirements for the ministry,” said the priest, who received his master’s degree in theology from the University of Calabar, Nigeria. (See guidelines.)
The Eucharist is made available each day to every Catholic patient who is a communicant. Typically, the volunteers distribute the Eucharist before noon. Those who are unable to receive the Eucharist at that time are revisited later.
Father Nwudah, who was ordained a priest in 1990 in the Diocese of Ahiara, Nigeria, asked that individuals prayerfully consider volunteering for this ministry.
“I hope people will examine the gifts God has given them and how they are being called to use them and respond,” he said.
Individuals who assist with duties at Mercy Medical Center are called Volunteer Ambassadors. Typically, a volunteer in any area of the hospital would be required to fill out an application and health questionnaire, agree to a background check and drug test, be personally interviewed and participate in an orientation.
Those interested in volunteering as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, should contact Mercy’s Director of Mission Integration Mary Hendriks, at (712) 279-2003.
Diocese of Sioux City Guidelines for Eucharistic Ministers
- The pastor of the parish shall oversee the selection of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.
- Once persons have been selected to serve, the pastor shall submit these names on the proper form, with a letter of request to the diocese’s Office of Worship, which will coordinate the bishop’s approval and mandate.
- Those who are invited to serve in this ministry shall be: aged 18 or older, baptized and confirmed Roman Catholics, regularly sharers in the Eucharist, in good standing according to the law of the church and capable of adhering to the church’s procedures.
- Those chosen must make a public profession of faith and be deemed responsible to carry out the mandate entrusted to them. Those interested in serving as a eucharistic minister should contact the parish in which they are registered for more details.