Keeping the faith in a nursing home

This past summer I realized it had been more than 18 years since I have been in a Catholic church. In fact, I could not remember the last time I went to Mass in my hometown's church.

My first nursing home was in a small farming community and had two Catholic churches. Volunteers came every Sunday to give Communion. The priest came at least once a month to say Mass in the dining room. If a resident requested to see the priest, he came to see them.

Although I never made it to Mass in that town's church, I felt connected spiritually.

When I came to this facility over three years ago, I churches did not visit here very often. I was here a while before the nuns from the local Catholic church visited me and brought me Communion. A few months later a volunteer began to come on Sunday to give Communion.

For a while there was another Catholic resident here. During the summer, however, he moved away and I am the only Catholic again.

I asked why the priest did not visit me. I was told that he is only priest assigned to this parish and is quite busy. The lay minister also said he did not like to visit nursing home residents who had roommates because he felt there was not enough privacy for receiving the sacraments.

I finally decided that if the priest could not come to me, I would go to him. I had not gone to confession (Sacrament of Reconciliation) since I moved here. During the summer I called the parish to make an appointment for confession. When I called I got voicemail, which is certainly not the Catholic church of the past. But I left a message and a few days later the priest returned my call.

I arranged to meet him at the church one morning. When I arrived, the parking lot was empty. The 100-year-old church is beautiful and immaculately clean. I was surprised it was empty. I knew that the only wheelchair access to the sanctuary was by elevator. With no other church entrance available, my driver and I headed to the parish house.

The priest is new to the parish and had a bit of difficulty trying to get the elevator to come down to ground level. He had to go up the outside staircase and ride the elevator down.

I headed to the Reconciliation Room. I felt comfortable going to confession and was glad to clear my conscience. I would have liked to stay and pray for a while. But because the elevator was key driven there was no way that we linger after the priest left.

Going to that church with its complicated elevator system made me long for a cement wheelchair ramp where I could make an almost unremarkable entrance. Now that I have been to the church, maybe the priest will feel more comfortable coming to me.

Topics: Activities