WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Fr. Oscar Monroy displays some of the educational materials he has received from the Knights of Columbus to use in hospital ministry.
EDMONTON — As a Catholic chaplain, Father Oscar Monroy spends most of his days providing pastoral and spiritual services to patients, families and staff at the University of Alberta Hospital.
Now thanks to the Knights of Columbus, Monroy has the means to educate his ever-changing flock in the faith.
The Alberta Knights have given Monroy a series of catechetical materials that he hands out to patients who request them.
Monroy, 65, has been chaplain for the past two-and-a-half years. Members of his team include Priscilla Edwards, who brings Communion to the patients, Sister Maria del Pilar Valdez, who visits new patients, and volunteers like Molly Chu, who does visits and helps with the Mass celebration on Saturdays at 4 p.m., and John Marple, who brings Communion on Sundays.
Monroy can be found at the hospital from Wednesday to Sunday, mostly in the evenings. But he is on call.
"If someone needs a priest I go," he says. "The priest is usually saved for last rites but being there, I learned that it's not just to take care of the last minutes of a person who is dying but that it is more important to go and visit with the patients."
There are more than 750 patients at the hospital and about 200 of them are Catholic. The University Hospital is a regional hospital and patients come from across Western Canada, the chaplain says. "Usually the people who are there are in need of special treatment."
Then there are doctors, nurses, lab people, paramedics and the students - all of whom are potential members of Monroy's congregation. "It's a large population."
He visits Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Sometimes nurses point him to who he should visit. Some patients asked him for basic material about prayer and the Catholic faith and Monroy realized he had none.
"I have zero budget to work there," he chuckles. "I have nothing."
But then in 2006 he learned that the Knights of Columbus could give him a hand. He is a knight himself so he spoke to then-state deputy Wally Streit and got eight boxes of catechetical materials - free of charge.
The materials are divided into four groups and include prayer booklets, booklets to help pray the rosary and booklets to prepare for Confession.
He also has a series called Veritas Series that gives a basic overview of various aspects of the Catholic faith. Then there is the Luke E. Hart booklets that provide a systematic introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
"This is good for the patients and also for the staff," Monroy says. "These are wonderful ways for people who are in the hospital for a long while doing nothing. We need to work with them."
Patients want to learn about the faith. "They are kind of thirsty for God."
"I'm a priest," Monroy says. "My work is evangelization. I'm bringing the people close to God. And what a good opportunity when someone is asking for someone to give the right material at the right time."