Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 25, 2002
Priests' grace beckoned convert
Catholic clergy always answered hospital calls
By DIANE PIERCY
"It spoke volumes to me when a priest would come for a patient he had never met."
- Diane Piercy
It was while working the midnight shift that I began to notice the clergy. One of my jobs was to phone to ask them to come to be with dying patients and their families.
Some would say yes, and others would flatly refuse.
Those who refused would tell me that the weather was too bad or they were too tired or they didn't know the patient or the family.
In one incident a critically injured woman was brought to the hospital.
She had no family or friends with her. The only information we had about her was her name, and so we didn't know if she was a member of a church or not.
When I called a clergyman, he told me that if I wasn't sure that she was a church member, he wasn't coming.
The woman died alone that night.
I'm not saying that any of the clergymen who didn't come were "bad," but I just couldn't imagine the pain of rejection and abandonment the patient and families must have felt then.
And I couldn't understand why the clergy didn't come.
After a while I became aware that I had never heard a Roman Catholic priest say no. I would call whoever was on call with the long-range pager, and the priest usually returned the call within five minutes.
Let me tell you a couple of stories.
When the battery on the pager is low, it will automatically beep every half hour until it is completely out of power or the battery is changed.
One night when the battery was low, even though the priest knew this, he phoned every time there was a beep just in case someone needed him.
Another time when I paged a Catholic priest, there was no answer. So I phoned his emergency number. (He had been too far away from the pager.) Though it was 4 a.m. and I had woken him up, he assured me he'd be over right away.
When I saw him later, I apologized for waking him up at such an awful hour. He looked shocked at my comment and said not to be sorry.
He said that if it ever happened again, not to waste any time but to get hold of him right away. I was struck by the urgency in his voice.
These experiences made a big impression on me.
I didn't know anything about the power of the Sacrament of the Sick or the fact that the priest as another Christ has the power to forgive sins.
So I didn't know that they had a far more urgent reason to come than to bring comfort, important as that is.
But it spoke volumes to me when a priest would come for a patient he had never met.
Sometimes the patient hadn't been to church in 20 years, but it didn't seem to matter to the priest.
I began to wonder why the Catholic priests always came, no matter what, and why they considered it so vitally important.
It was this that started me on the path to the Catholic Church. And though it's not the only one, it's one of the reasons I joined.
(Reprinted with permission from Restoration, Combermere, Ont.)
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