‘Church lady’ calls bringing Communion to homebound

| September 12, 2012 | 0 Comments

Nancy McGrew from St. Ambrose of Woodbury in Woodbury gives Communion to someone in a nursing home. McGrew has been bringing Communion to the homebound of the parish for about five years. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

The “church lady” came after all.

Beatrice, who suffers from memory loss, was living in a nursing home in West St. Paul when her family decided recently to move her to a new facility nearly 15 miles away.

She worried that the the “church lady” wouldn’t continue her weekly visits to bring Communion because she was too far away.

But, during the second week at her new home, Beatrice’s face lit up when the “church lady” found her.

Nancy McGrew, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion from St. Ambrose of Woodbury, has been bringing Communion to Beatrice for the past year.

“Did you have trouble finding it?” Beatrice asked during the visit. McGrew took the woman’s hand and answered, “Beatrice, I’d go anywhere to find you!”

McGrew has been bringing Communion to the homebound and nursing home residents like Beatrice for five years.

“Its humbling for me because her memory is not great, and to know that these visits have meant something is huge,” McGrew said. “Its not me, it’s the Lord working through me. I know that I’ve brightened her day, and she feels cared for by not only her family but by her church family as well.”

Despite Beatrice’s declining health, the two have formed a strong bond. “We’ve built up a relationship and I’ve had that happen with several families, it’s pretty powerful,” McGrew said.

McGrew said what impresses her most about her ministry is the deep faith of the people she serves and their appreciation for the Eucharist.

“There’s something about feeding the soul with the Eucharist that people really cherish,” she said.

The people that McGrew visits are unable to leave their homes by themselves for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s short-term, like an illness or injury that keeps them from Sunday Mass. Some elderly people are still in their homes and have trouble getting around, while others are being cared for by family members or living in a nursing home.

McGrew visits each person at least once a week and is available more often when someone’s health worsens or if he or she is nearing the end of life.

“When I bring the Eucharist to other people, I know I’m holding the body of Christ in the pyx (small case),” she said. “When I go into homes, they’re just craving this nourishment. It’s because of the Holy Spirit working through me that I even feel like I should be doing this. It is such a sacred thing, it’s such a great gift to be able to do this for others.”

McGrew has gotten very close to some families and admits it is very hard when their loved one passes away.

“Its hard,” she said. “Especially when you’re there once or twice a week and it gets toward the end and you just know that it may not be much longer before they go home to the Lord.”

The families are very appreciative and talk about how important it was to their loved one to have someone visit and bring Communion, McGrew said. One family gave her a cross from their mother after she died and a CD they had played at her bedside.

“I feel like I’m a part of a very blessed ministry,” McGrew said. “It’s a very special ministry to be able to go into a person’s home and to be able to pray with them and have them feel comfortable, and know that when you come to them, you’re truly bringing the Lord with you.

“I think [this ministry] is part of who we are as Catholics and what we stand for as Catholics. This is definitely very much a spiritual work of mercy, taking care of the poor and taking care of the more vulnerable of society.”

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