Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The sacrament of the anointing of the sick is just one way priests and chaplains can minister to the dying and their families. They -- along with others in pastoral care ministry -- can also pray, sing, read Scriptures, counsel, help with arrangements and mediate conflicts. They even grant final requests. One patient at Our Lady of Mercy Life Center nursing home in Guilderland, for example, expressed a lifelong desire to see a certain play. Marie Venaglia, the Catholic chaplain, rented a DVD from the library and played it for her. After residents die, the center holds a service for family, staff and visitors. It also has periodic memorial services. "It's another form of closure, another way to talk about how (the bereaved are) doing," Venaglia told The Evangelist, newspaper of the Albany Diocese. "Death is a natural process. We can speak freely about it. It's not all medical. The pastoral ministry here is all incorporated into the whole care." She and other Catholics who encounter death on a regular basis recently reflected on pastoral care of the dying, God's presence at a deathbed and their common experiences in patients' final hours. The anointing of the sick -- which Venaglia described as "a blessing showing that the whole church is united in praying for this person at this time in their life, not just a death" -- is offered every six weeks and as needed.