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 | By Joey Reistroffer

Extraordinary Duty: From Prisons to Care Homes

Mark Pace has felt the Real Presence of the Lord when delivering Eucharist to folks who cannot make it to Mass.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” the extraordinary eucharistic minister from Spartanburg’s St. Paul Church said of the experience. “Sometimes I forget to thank God for all the graces he’s shed down upon me.”

Mark wishes he could bring the Body of Christ to more people, but COVID-19 has stifled the ministry. Some of those who need Christ the most are at the Tyger River Correctional Institution in Enoree.

“It’s bad over there. You don’t want to be in a prison in South Carolina,” he said, adding that people need the Eucharist in prison.

Those conditions never intimidated Sister Christina Murphy from Our Lady of the Hills in Columbia.

“Once the officers get to know you, the body scans and pat downs are routine,” she said of her prison ministry.

Sister Christina said she would start the ladies with Scripture readings, then offer a little homilette before bringing the Eucharist to these prisoners.

“They very much appreciate it and are very aware that it is the Body and Blood of Christ,” she said. “You’d get to know the ladies real well, and when they were released, we’d keep in touch.”

Unfortunately, the pandemic has cut off access to the prisons.

Assisted living centers also are feeling the pinch.

Sister Christina recalled delivering the Eucharist to one of the assisted living centers while the folks there were having a physical therapy session.

“I’d have to climb over people to give them Communion,” she said. “Some would say, ‘Oh wait, me too. I’m Catholic.’”

Now, she focuses on bringing Christ to believers who are homebound and shut in. She said they are very grateful and very welcoming.

Grace Roberts, a eucharistic minister from Jesus Our Risen Savior Church, also in Spartanburg, agrees. She was delivering Communion to patients in hospice and to residents in nursing homes, but now many of those are off limits. She said it was important to make eye contact with recipients in nursing homes, but they knew what she was bringing them.

“They all want Jesus. They are so reverent when they receive,” Grace said.

She recalled one lady suffering from Alzheimer’s who responded to songs and whose fog cleared, “especially when I sang the Hail Mary.”

Now, Grace delivers the Eucharist to individual homes, but she is getting more cautious because she does not want anybody to catch COVID-19.

“One lady watched two Masses before I got there. She was very reverent,” Grace said. “It’s heart-warming. It sustains you in your faith to see someone so in love with Jesus.”

Mark said he now delivers the Eucharist with his wife Claudia, and it is amazing watching her bring Jesus to people.

“You can feel the love,” the Real Presence of Christ, he said. “It’s a glorious honor to be able to be a Eucharistic Minister.”