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The holy gift volunteers deliver to patients

Toronto, December 15, 2014

By Evelyne Jhung

Christina Santos delivers Holy Communion to Mario Corpos
Volunteer Eucharistic minister Christina Santos delivers Holy Communion to Mario Corpos, a patient at St. Michael’s Hospital. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

“Being able to give Holy Communion makes you realize how lucky you are to have the health and motivation to be in this line of work,” said Marianna Korman. “I’ve done other volunteer work, but this has been the most rewarding; it nourishes your own spirit.”

Korman is one of 14 volunteer Eucharistic ministers who help the hospital’s Roman Catholic priest-chaplain, Father Yaw Acheampong, distribute Communion to patients who ask to receive the sacrament during their stay at St. Michael’s. She has been volunteering in this capacity for more than 20 years.

The volunteer communion ministers don’t discuss patients’ illnesses with them nor do they offer any counselling but “being beside them and praying for them makes me feel helpful and I can see that God is alive in a little way,” said Christina Santos, a fellow Eucharistic volunteer.

The volunteer Eucharistic ministers are all lay people who go through the regular volunteer orientation and receive additional training from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto to become Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

They are each assigned a day to visit patients across the hospital. Korman and Santos come on Fridays and see about three to four patients each. On average, about 14 Catholic patients a day request Communion by their bedside. Christmas, Easter Sunday and Ash Wednesday are the busiest days of the year.


All 14 of St. Michael’s volunteer Eucharistic ministers are women

Interested volunteers must be practicing Roman Catholics with the desire to serve others in a hospital setting.

Korman became interested when she was a volunteer in the ICU in 1993.

“I could see then how patients benefited from chaplain visits,” she said. “I’ve also been a patient here, so I know how comforting it is. I believe this is a good way of trying to be a good Christian.”

Santos, who has been volunteering as a Communion minister for the past year and a half, echoed her sentiment.

“I just had a calling to do this. It makes me happy to be able to help patients through their suffering by offering comfort and peace through Holy Communion. I’ll never stop doing this.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.