Re March 10 article, “Nursing home aide there for dying woman”: The article mentioned that a Catholic priest was unwilling to offer “last rites” to a dying woman. The author is writing out of a common misconception. He assumes that a priest must give “last rites,” or what was called “extreme unction,” to the dying. Since the days of Vatican II, priests offer anointing of the sick, to those sick in mind, body or spirit. This may take place at any time of life. At the time of death, a priest or lay minister may offer prayers for the dying.
Since this woman was in a nursing home and was elderly, she may have been anointed her by her priest in the past. Most priests offer the sacrament when they visit with elderly parishioners. The family or the nursing home need not wait to the last moment of life to ask for the sacraments of healing.
The sacrament of the sick is a rich and wonderful sacrament that few ask to celebrate with their priest. Before going into the hospital or nursing home, it’s appropriate for the patient or family to call their local parish and ask to celebrate the sacrament. Most hospitals and nursing homes have a pastoral care department, which may also help with arranging for this sacrament.
It’s wonderful that the nursing home found a man to be a companion to this women on her way to the next world. That should have been the focus of the article, not that he was a substitute for a priest who was unwilling to offer “last rites” to a dying woman.
Rev. Chris Welch
The writer is pastor for St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Church in Fonda and Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tribes Hill.