Hospital Ministry & COVID-19: 'It Seems a Lot Less Personal. But There's Still Power in Presence.' - Missouri Health Talks - KBIA

Hospital Ministry & COVID-19: 'It Seems a Lot Less Personal. But There's Still Power in Presence.'

Hospital Ministry & COVID-19: 'It Seems a Lot Less Personal. But There's Still Power in Presence.'

Father Francis Doyle is the pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Columbia. He works closely with Deacon Michael Berendzen who coordinates the Columbia Catholic Hospital Ministry.

They spoke about how the Columbia Catholic Hospital ministry has had to make some changes to the Anointing of the Sick and hospital visits during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Region: Columbia

Related Issues: COVID-19 Grief & End of Life Care Mental Health


Telling This Story

Fr. Francis Doyle

Fr. Francis Doyle

Pastor; Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Michael Berendzen

Michael Berendzen

Coordinator, Columbia Catholic Hospital Ministry


Deacon Mike Berendzen: I sent out to the five priests that we had on our on-call list at that time here in Colombia saying, “Who of you are willing to go into a COVID room?”

“Because if you're not, I understand,” and to a man all five said, “Well, count me in.”

So, that immediately gave me that good feeling of “Okay, we're all on board,” then it was a matter of, “Okay, how do we do this safely?” And, and that's really the partnership with the hospitals.

The hospitals have done a great job of working with us, of meeting us at the door and going to the rooms with us, making sure that we're in our PPE – and that's, I'm going to let Father Francis talk to that, because you've actually….

Father Francis Doyle: Yeah, I've had to visit COVID patients quite a few times. Now, when this all began – when the pandemic began – if I remember correctly, the hospitals would not allow anybody to visit patients unless you're at the point of dying, and that was the only time we could go in.

Deacon Mike: And I would point out that different hospitals do still have different protocols. So…

Father Francis: So, when this all began, because so little was known about this particular virus, it did seem very intimidating and very scary the first time to walk in the room of a COVID patient. Now, it's not so much to me, personally, maybe I've just become complacent. I'm not sure.

But typically, what will happen – they let you know, of course, if you're going to visit a patient with COVID, and then the staff is really, really good. They just gown you up. They put the gown, gloves, and usually goggles, and then they put an n95 mask on you.

It is not nearly as personal, that's for sure, because you have all this equipment on, and sometimes the goggles are fogging up and your voice is kind of muffled when you talk to the person, if they’re conscious, or to the families.

So, it seems a lot less personal. A lot more sterile environment that you're going into, which makes it very different.

Deacon Mike: I just had my first opportunity to go into a COVID positive patients room. The patient was dying. They allowed one family member in there. So, they allowed me to come in there and to be with that family member and support them.

And you know, you want to give somebody a hug when they've just lost someone or you want to, you know, have that contact, and there just really isn't that.

But there's still power in presence, and, you know, even if we're all gowned up – we can still be there. We can still, you know, provide that presence.

I accompanied them back outside, when you know they were ready to leave, and I helped them carry some of the personal belongings back outside, and that's when the rest of the family met them. Because the rest of the family could not come in.

So, the ministry actually ended up outside the hospital because now all of a sudden, I've got the whole family there. Standing there in the cold with them, you know, as they grieved So, it's good that we can be there.

Father Francis: And I would say, “Thank God, we're still able to do it.”

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