Minister to the homebound loves to serve

By Ginny Revel
“If only people would try volunteering as a homebound minister, they would love it!”

This is the heartfelt advice of Dee Radebaugh, who has been an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion to the homebound for the past eight years. Dee is one of approximately 45 ministers at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Grand Junction who, on a regular basis, visits the frail and the elderly, those people recovering from surgery, those who don’t drive, and the sick and the dying.

A personal family crisis provided Dee with the impetus to begin training for this special, self-giving avocation. When her husband of 54 years, William, became critically ill due to pulmonary fibrosis, Dee wished to bring him the Eucharist at home. A friend suggested that she herself become an EM for the homebound.

Dee was brought up-to-speed by Bev Goodrich, the IHM Pastoral Assistant. Then, on nearly every Sunday for a year and a half, Dee carried Christ in the Eucharist to William. On occasion, her daughter, Cynthia, would substitute for Dee in this most precious mission.

Following her husband’s passing, Dee’s natural thought was to quit the ministry. After all, there was no more reason to continue. Or so she thought. In reality, not only could she help other homebound clients, but she found that it was now becoming a gift to her – a way to keep her mind busy and her heart lifted while she processed her grief. After all, she and her husband had been inseparable since high school.

“I missed William dearly,” Dee confided. “I was blessed to have married a good man. It was hard to let him go, but I knew that he was in a far better place,” she added. “My ministry helped me through this dark time.”

Now Dee was hooked. Having helped her husband, now she decided she wanted to help others. Also, she knew that eventually she might be in a position to require homebound ministry for herself. In the meantime, she could pass on the graces of reception of the Eucharist to those who were shut in.

Sunday is the day Dee reserves for her ministry. She attends the 10 a.m. Mass at IHM with a few of her children and grandchildren. After lunch she’s on her way to share the Eucharist with her friends. It normally takes about three hours to make the rounds to two homes and two nursing homes. She doesn’t just bring Communion and then leave.

“My people are just wonderful – so kind, loving and appreciative of my visits,” she shared. “They’re ill and mostly spend time by themselves. Being lonely, they say that seeing me regularly, bringing Christ into their homes, gives them something to look forward to.” She added, “They’ve told me that they’re thankful and that they feel so much better when I arrive to brighten up their day!”

Dee shared that the only reason that she’d quit her ministry now, would be if she were forced to quit driving due to health or age-related issues. Otherwise she plans on doing her ministry for a long time to come.

According to Dee, “I’m convinced that if someone goes (to bring the Eucharist) and visits once or twice, they’d be hooked into this really joyful and personally fulfilling ministry.”

She issued an open invitation by saying, “I’d be happy to have volunteers shadow me on my homebound visits. They would see the need firsthand – and they’d want to fill it. Come train with me and Jesus!”