Ottumwa parishioners offer caring presence


By Celine Klosterman

OTTUMWA — A group of people from St. Patrick Parish wants to make sure people feel cared for in times of need — of body or soul.

Sixteen to 18 women and men serve in the Ministry of Caring. They regularly visit homebound parishioners and nursing home residents to provide Communion and conversation, attend visitations for deceased parishioners and send a series of letters to grieving relatives afterward.

The group has been active since at least 1997, said Peg Herrmann, chairperson, who joined St. Patrick Parish and the Ministry of Caring back then. Members have taken classes locally on ministering to homebound people.

“I like being with and helping people,” said the retired nurse. Parishioners know they can call her and other Ministry of Caring members for assistance, she said. 


Related to the ministry is a parish nursing outreach that formed about 11 years ago, said member Cindy Donohue, a nurse for Mahaska County Hospital in Oskaloosa. Several nurses — and a few non-nurses — have organized blood drives, bring meals to recovering patients and help local Catholics with small, in-home tasks such as showering and dressing simple wounds. Volunteers also help parishioners take advantage of outside resources and agencies.

“We’re there to be a support to people who need skilled care after an acute stay in the hospital and to enhance home care services or hospice services,” said Donohue.

Parishioner Helen Grueser appreciates local Catholics’ help. She suffers from lymphedema, a condition involving swelling of limbs. Paid helpers wrap her legs five nights a week to prevent swelling, but for 10 years, St. Patrick parishioners have volunteered to do the task the other two nights.

Their generosity is “amazing,” Grueser said. “There’s no way I can ever thank them or express how important it is or how I appreciate it.”

Donohue said St. Patrick’s nursing ministry remains an “underused resource,” but sees great opportunity in it for others like Grueser and for volunteers. “There’s huge potential for this program,” she said, envisioning health fairs, blood pressure screenings and more. “You can make a huge impact on people who very much need support at a hard time in their lives.”

For help or to volunteer, call Donohue at (641) 777-3488 or Hermann at (641) 814-9312.

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