The Church has always been supportive of, concerned about and caring towards the elderly, the sick, the suffering and the dying. Priests pray over them, anoint them with the Sacrament of Holy Anointing, hear their confession and give them Holy Communion, and they rejoice with the gifts of healing and reconciliation (cf. James 5: 13-15).
When the Movement Control Order (MCO) restrictions were eased in May 2020, I started reaching out to those who were hospitalised, in the old folks homes and the homebound, upon request and also in urgent cases. Towards the end of June 2020, with the reopening of churches, there was a kind of demand from the elderly, the sick and the homebound for the Sacraments as they were unable to be present for the Eucharistic celebration in Church, due to the strict guidelines imposed. They were considered a high risk category, and therefore the Extra Ordinary Communion Ministers (EOCM) and I couldn’t visit them and were unable to move forward in bringing Holy Communion to the elderly and the sick.
Many of our Parishioners have forwarded their requests, suggestions and comments pertaining to the homebound and the elderly who are above 70 years old, and thus unable to attend Weekend Masses. However, the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur Task Force is still in the midst of assessing, reviewing and studying the arising issues of homebound visits. We want to remain vigilant, safe and protected from this dangerous virus, and not further contribute to the spread of this pandemic.
During the RMCO, I visited patients in hospital. It was not an easy task to do during the COVID-19 outbreak, as there were many safety and precautionary procedures that needed to be adhered to before gaining access into the respective wards. Even family members of patients had to face similar difficulties. Once, after completing and adhering to all the necessary procedures pertaining to the hospital safety measures, just as I was about to enter the ward, a doctor asked me “Why are you taking such a risk to meet a patient?” His cautionary remark alerted me to the fact that, should I inadvertently contract the virus, I would then unknowingly risk infecting many others too. So since then, I have cut down my hospital visits, unless it involves an urgent case.
Looking at the current situation, every one of us should seriously take necessary precautions to care for ourselves and cooperate fully with the front liners – medical professionals, doctors, nurses, healthcare-givers, security officers, etc. We should be mindful to minimise visiting the sick and the dying at the hospital, as these areas are considered high risk. We should also minimise our movement in public places and always remain vigilant and safe by wearing a mask and practising good hygiene at all times.
The same goes for visiting the sick and the elderly who are homebound. Although they are safer being at home, we still need to be extra careful and mindful of their situation. However, due to the many requests from our Parishioners and families over the last two weeks, I have slowly started to resume my homebound visits. I hope to be able to complete this task within the next two weeks. There are a few of elderly and the sick who meet me personally for the Holy Anointing and Holy Communion in my office.
From September 2020 onwards, our Parish will most likely begin to allow the Extra Ordinary Communion Ministers (EOCM) to bring Holy Communion to the homebound. We must always care for and remain hospitable to those most vulnerable in our community. By providing an opportunity to meet their spiritual needs, we can bring comfort and consolation to them. Our presence will bring blessing and hope, and we pray that with our assistance they will be restored to better health.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy