All in from St Paul’s Couva
June 5, 2024
Thursday June 6th: Love has Everything to do with it!
June 6, 2024

Bringing pastoral care and comfort to the sick

Q: Archbishop J, what are we doing for our sick?

Visiting the sick is a Corporal Work of Mercy that Jesus specified in Matthew 25:35–40, “I was sick, and you visited me.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says: “The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity” (2447).

Our faith has deep social implications. In St Matthew’s Gospel, the judgement relates to how we treat the most marginalised in our society. This is a wake-up call. We are judged not by our devotion but rather by our love. True devotion always brings us to love. Love is about giving oneself to another—one who is most in need.


A beginning

The Ministry of the Sick (MoS) was born out of Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris’ urging parishioners “to visit and pray with, not just Catholics, but with all persons admitted in the hospitals across Trinidad and Tobago.”

This bold and laudable pastoral move brought many people into Ministry and ensured the sick were visited and received compassion and healing from their church or assembly. This is what the Catechism says about this ministry:

Christ’s compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that “God has visited his people” and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins; he has come to heal the whole man, soul and body; he is the physician the sick have need of. His compassion toward all who suffer goes so far that he identifies himself with them: “I was sick, and you visited me.” His preferential love for the sick has not ceased through the centuries to draw the very special attention of Christians toward all those who suffer in body and soul. It is the source of tireless efforts to comfort them. (CCC 1503)

The Ministry to the Sick has a Vicar for Health (and Wellness) —Msgr Esau Joseph—whose job has been to oversee this vital Ministry and ensure it grows and reaches all the sick in our nation’s hospitals.

At its peak, 207 ministers were ensuring daily visitations of the sick in hospitals across Trinidad and Tobago. Covid-19 has dealt this Ministry a severe blow, but it is quickly recovering. Although the Ministry at one time came to a halt, it now has 150 ministers and is looking for more to ensure every sick in every hospital is visited regularly.

We also enrol our sick into the Apostolate to the sick. We ask them to intercede for the work and mission of the Church, receive prayer requests, and offer their sufferings for mission. To enrol, use the contact below.


Hospital chaplain 

To deepen this Ministry and to ensure we provide adequate care for the sick, I have appointed Fr Derek Anton as hospital chaplain for the hospitals and health institutions in the North and Suburban Vicariates.

The chaplain will collaborate with the Vicar and the Eternal Light Community to provide spiritual guidance, pastoral care, and emotional support to patients, their families, and healthcare staff.

The primary role of the chaplain is to offer prayers, sacraments, and religious services to Catholic patients, including the Anointing of the Sick and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The sick need the opportunity to work through their forgiveness challenges with God and with family and friends.

The Anointing of the Sick is primarily about healing—body, mind, soul, and spirit.

This Sacrament should be administered as early in the illness as possible. But remember, the ultimate healing is death itself. When that moment comes, we want to be ready. To die in a state of grace with all the consolation of your faith is a beautiful death.

The chaplain will also listen to and comfort those suffering from illness, trauma, or grief. This part of the Ministry is to be shared with other ministers who visit the sick regularly. It is also a work of compassion and healing.

Facilitating communication between patients and their families, especially when dealing with complex medical situations or end-of-life care, is a sensitive and essential part of the chaplain’s ministry. Sometimes, a family needs wise medical, spiritual, and ethical counsel.

As a hospital chaplain, I have accompanied families making the difficult decision to end the use of life-support machines. This is allowing a person to die with dignity. It is quite different from euthanasia. This needs careful pastoral presence and wisdom. The Church has guidelines for these conversations.


Care for Catholic hospital staff

Our Catholic medical practitioners in our hospitals need pastoral accompaniment, which entails supplying their sacramental needs, including Masses where possible for the doctors, nurses and ancillary staff who work on a Sunday.

It also requires the chaplain to collaborate with the Vicar to develop ongoing formation and support for the staff to give them a living faith and understanding of the Church’s teaching on health care and ethics.

This also allows for education and advocating for the spiritual needs of patients and their families within the hospital setting.

The chaplain will also collaborate with the hospital’s interfaith team to ensure that patients of all faiths receive appropriate spiritual care. With the Vicar, the chaplain should host regular meetings for chaplains of different faiths to work together.

As you can see, hospital chaplains are vital members of the healthcare team. They contribute to the holistic well-being of patients by addressing their spiritual and emotional needs alongside their physical health.


Contact information

We are instituting a Health hotline to make it easy for you to contact us if you have a hospital patient who needs a visit from a member of the team or a priest. Lenore Callender has been coordinating the MoS on behalf of Eternal Light.

She can be contacted by:

WhatsApp and phone:  1(868) 281-2480


You can also contact her if you want to join this Ministry. We are encouraging parishes to commit to visiting particular wards in nearby health institutions.


Key Message:

The Corporal Works of Mercy are essential practices for a living faith. We all need to consider again the call to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, and bury the dead.

Action Step:

Find a way to include the works of mercy in your week. Giving alms to the poor together with them is an important witness of fraternal charity.

Scripture Reading:

Mt 25:35–40