Hope for the Homebound
By Danielle Koleniak
It’s easy to take for granted the social interaction many of us have on a daily basis. Whether it’s chatting with a co-worker at the water cooler, ordering your specialty drink at Starbucks, or talking/complaining with your neighbors at the community pool about your Home Owners Association’s choice of colored mulch for the plants– your social life may be routine or even a headache for you, but for some, it’s non-existent. It’s hard to imagine life in silence… where every day it’s normal to be alone, not have anyone to talk to, no one to ask how your day is going, and be confined to the walls of your home; but it’s a reality for so many elderly here in Southwest Florida.DOWNLOAD THE BULLETIN
Helen Tuffy, along with her group of fearless leaders, heads up the Homebound Ministry here our parish, which provides home visits to give the Eucharist to those who are unable to attend Mass. For some, it’s the only visit they receive every week.
In the past few years, the ministry has grown tremendously. In doing so, Helen noticed a big need. Some people they visit had little to no food, couldn’t pay for their medication or just needed a friend. Today, the Homebound Outreach Ministry works to meet those needs. The ministry volunteers work with individuals on applying for aid or just simply connecting them with a volunteer who is able to play cards with them. There’s little Helen Tuffy can’t do to serve those in need, but as Helen says herself, the more hands she has in the Homebound Ministry or Homebound Outreach, the bigger the difference they can make in the lives of the sometimes ‘forgotten’ ones.
Danielle Koleniak: How did you first get involved with the ministry?
Helen Tuffy: Four years ago, I started as a volunteer who gave the Eucharist to parishioners who were homebound. When I made my visit, I saw needs. Sometimes it was no food, others just needed socialization. That’s when I realized there was a need out there, in addition to the Eucharist. Then the Outreach Ministry to the Homebound cam into fruition.
DK: Walk me through what you do as a Eucharistic Minister to the homebound.
Right now, I see four people a week. We always call them ahead of time. Sometimes we are the only people who see them all week, so we socialize with them a little bit at first. Then, we set up a white cloth, candle, crucifix and pyx. We then go through the prayers, a couple of scripture readings and then we offer them Eucharist. We say prayers afterward and then give them a blessing. Visits take anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour. It really just depends on the personality of the parishioner and if they want to socialize. Everyone is different and that’s ok! We love that about the ministry.
DK: Tell me about how this ministry has had an impact on your life?
HT: There was a woman I used to visit who had ALS. She was alone most of the day because her husband worked. She couldn’t speak, so when I would see her we would communicate with the computer by typing back and forth. It was amazing to see her strength. She was so holy and so appreciative of receiving the Eucharist. We had a volunteer see her three times a week. She had such faith and trust in God. She knew she was dying, but she wasn’t afraid. She eventually passed away but, she was certainly the person who had the greatest impact on me in this ministry.
You get more out of this ministry than you give.
One thing it has done for me is it has made me appreciate how many kind people there are in this parish who are more than willing to go out of their way to sit with other folks. They are so giving and kind.
DK: How many people are involved in the Homebound Ministry?
HT: In season, we have between 30 and 35 homebound, right now we have about 20. There are about 15 Eucharistic ministers for the homebound, but we really need 25 to 30 volunteers.
DK: Talk to me a little more about the Homebound Outreach. This is an extension of the Homebound Ministry.
HT: When we get a referral of a parishioner who is homebound, we go to their homes and ask them if they need anything in addition to the Eucharist. Usually we ask them this: “If there is one thing we could help them with, what would that be?”
Some of them will say that they have no food, or they have no friends, or even simply that they would like books to read. We can do many things. We can help with finances, medical issues… transportation is one thing we really can’t get involved with, but we can certainly get them connected with the resources. There are lots of things available. We become an advocate for them.
DK: Why is this something that you want to continue to grow?
HT: When you think about the people you meet, you know there is so much more of a need out there—for example, when I first met with one couple, they had no transportation, no finances, nothing. We got them into a veterans program and now they have an additional $2,500 a month. That makes a big difference. The couple is now able to pay for their medical bills and have food. There is so much we can do for so many people.
DK: If someone is interested in becoming a Eucharistic Minister for the homebound, what steps do they need to take?
HT: If they aren’t current volunteers with the church, they should contact the Parish Office and ask for Jennifer Engelman to begin the volunteer process. Once completed, they can contact me. They will shadow me or one of the other volunteers until they feel comfortable giving the Eucharist on home visits alone.
If you are homebound or know someone who is homebound who would like to receive the Eucharist, please call the parish office at 561-2245.
If you know someone who is a homebound veteran, he or she may be eligible for up to $1,950 a month in VA Aid. Contact David Casterioto at 239-344-9852 or David@vetsupportcenter.com.
If you are a Eucharistic Minister and would like to bring the Eucharist to someone who is homebound, contact Helen Tuffy at 482-7965 or firstname.lastname@example.org.