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Eucharistic Minister Resthomes, Otari Parish

 Training and Formation Reader


For Eucharistic Ministers who visit homes, retirement villages and resthomes, including resthomes for disabled and dementia persons.

This course was written for ministers in the Catholic parish of Otari, Karori, Wilton, Wellington NZ.

It has two modules and is not meant to be time-draining nor difficult.


Part One – practical

New Eucharistic Ministers visiting resthomes learn on the job by visiting resthomes with an experienced minister. The two points of learning are: 

  • seeing how ministers approach and minister to residents who have different spiritual needs

  • learn the layout of the places they minister in as some resthomes etc can be difficult to navigate.


Practical Points

Ministers visiting resthomes during the week start by preparing for their visit,

  • picking up communion hosts for their visit,
  • and making the visit.


  • A time spent in calm prayer 
  • Layout maps for the resthomes
  • Prayer book resources
  • Some ID including a lapel pin cross.


Picking Up Communion hosts

Where possible ministers can pick up their communion hosts during a parish mass they are attending on the day of their visit. This is known as the ‘table to table’ policy. I.e. ministers leave the Lord’s table at Mass to go to the resident’s table at their resthome or home.

If this is not possible ministers can go to the chapel to collect the required number of hosts. Ministers will need instruction about using the tabernacle key and reverence is to be observed.Visitation

The resthomes are divided into areas of rooms and have two floors, as well as kitchen, dining, admin and common rooms. All resthomes have a floor map at their entrance. If practical please photograph these onto your phone for reference. Sprott House issues a plastic volunteer lapel card for id.  

Some of the residents ministers will visit reside in a dementia ward (Sprott), or at St John Of God, a resthome for the mentally and physically disabled. Other residents are older senior citizens living an active life but still affected by the vagaries of aging.

When visiting it is not uncommon to find no one at home in a resident’s room. They may be out at a resthome activity, watching TV in a common room, getting medical attention, or out with relatives and friends. If you cannot find them don’t worry as another minister will be along the following week to visit them.  

Ministers are assigned to visit about once every six weeks through a roster system posted on the parish website.


Part Two – Liturgy, theology and spirituality.

There are two ways that Liturgy of the Word with Holy Communion is used in parishes. The liturgy format for pastoral visitation by a Eucharistic Minister has the basic elements of the longer format for the absence of a priest.

These are

(from You Visited Me – A Pastoral Care Companion. Fr James. B. Lyons):



Penitential Rite

           Invocations: ‘Lord have mercy..”

 Liturgy Of The Word

           Choose a suitable reading. Read reflections about your reading. 

Prayers Of Intercession

 Liturgy of the Sacrament

The Lord’s Prayer

Communion prayers

Silent Prayer

Prayer after communion.

Please obtain a copy of Fr Lyons book from the parish office.  <ore will be purchased if none are available on hand.


              The Spirituality of Ministry  - An attitude, an approach.

This reader will engage you in some aspects of spirituality and lay ministry but cannot cover all aspects. It is hoped that you will continue to develop your own faith formation. As Cardinal John Dew said on his recent Camino:  It is clearly essential to keep looking all the time in order to follow the right path and not get lost. I have been reflecting that this is very much what Pope Francis is telling us all the time about discernment and making the right choices in life. Look for the right signs in Scripture, prayer and reflection and we will find the right path.”

 Since Vatican II in the 1960’s the Church has encouraged lay people to engage in Christian ministry. Much has been written about Christian lay ministry and one of the landmark documents much quoted is the US Bishops document

It is a 70 page document so would have to read in bits by most of us, but it is a great context document for lay ministry. 

However, to quote one very important part the document says:  

“A personal experience in and through the Church of the love of the Father in Christ and through his Spirit is foundational for all ministry, as it is for true discipleship. If ministry does not flow from a personal encounter and ongoing relationship with the Lord, then no matter how “accomplished” it may be in its methods and activities, that ministry will lack the vital soul and source needed to bear lasting fruit.Nothing can substitute for this true conversion and personal encounter with Christ. Spiritual formation cannot produce it, for it is God’s gracious gift; but spiritual formation can teach and help those who seek it, prepare them to receive it, and, when it is given, develop its fruits in their lives and ministry. This dynamic of spiritual growth is an essential component of formation for ministry. 

Lay ecclesial ministry has no single spirituality, beyond common grounding in God’s word and the sacraments, in the pastoral life and communion of the Church, and in the one Spirit who has been given to all. For “there are as many paths of prayer as there are persons who pray,” even as “it is the same Spirit acting in all and with all.”73 The multiple demands of family and community responsibilities may occasionally challenge some lay ecclesial ministers in their effort to set aside regular time and space for spiritual practices. However, when daily life is lived intentionally and reflectively in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is a school of holiness.


Faith Experiences

It is for each of us engaged in parish ministry to know what their ‘personal encounter’ with Jesus and God is. For some it is personal and they chose not to reveal much about their personal spiritual experiences, but others may be very open to ‘sharing’ about their encounter with the Lord. This may range from people who have practised their faith in traditional way in a parish for their life, and others including in religious life (nuns, brothers) to people of a charismatic or mystical faith orientation. The point is that the people we are ministering to will have had a wide range of personal encounters with the Lord, with Jesus, with God.  Others may feel their lives are a train wreck and they have no lived experiences of faith, no personal encounters with Jesus, but now want to. For them we may have to pray openly alongside them. When we are allowed to minister to others we become a guest in their lives.   

Some helpful spiritual direction documents from Spiritual Growth Ministries. These pdf documents are useful pointers for ministers visiting resthomes with people affected by dementia.  

 Meeting the Spiritual Needs of those with Dementia in Residential Care by Heather Lofthouse.   The aim of this study is to explore spirituality and dementia, to identify how to effectively assess or evaluate and provide interaction to meet the spiritual needs of those in residential care. 

The geography of all residential care homes is changing. Currently it is estimated that within residential care a high percentage of residents have some cognitive impairment with many being diagnosed with dementia. Providing spiritual and pastoral care as a rest home chaplain to those with marked cognitive impairment is increasingly challenging. Residents are often alone with family and friends infrequently visiting. Staff focus on the practical care addressing the physical and emotional needs of the resident. There is often little time to meet the spiritual needs of these residents and yet understanding and attending to the spiritual needs of those with dementia is crucial in delivering holistic care.

This study focuses on identifying the current evidence from research to support chaplaincy to be effective in assessing and meeting the needs of those with dementia.




I visit and take Holy Communion to the residents in several rest homes and I want to discover ways of being more effective in this ministry. Among those I visit are many who are very frail and suffer from Alzheimer's Disease. I want to find ways to bring God's love to these people and seek a response from them. My research has covered their spiritual care, focusing on communication and building relationships. I have also considered how this relates to spiritual direction.


I include the below publication because of its insights into Pasifika spirituality.



“O fanau a tagata e fafaga I upu O fanau a manulele e usu I fuga o laau.” 1

A Translation: The young of humans are fed with words. The young of birds are fed with blossoms (nectar) of trees and plants.

Language is essential in any culture, for it is through language that the spirit and essence of cultures, myths and legends, are expressed, experienced, and lived. God is present in every culture, and every culture is able to express some truths about God to its own people. Traditional Samoans saw their culture as the basis and foundation of their understanding of how God had interacted with them. Culture is life, always changing and adapting. Cultural learning must have a good solid foundation and we see this in the elder/parent-child relationship in early Samoan society. On-going cultural and social change in society highlights the need to understand the cultural and religious context in which we work as spiritual directors. As a Samoan, training in this ministry, I am interested to explore some aspects of Samoan indigenous spirituality and its contributions to Christianity and spiritual direction. I would also like to compare and contrast spiritual direction with the ‘peer and elder mentoring’ of Samoan indigenous religion and spirituality.  

Ministry and Failure

Pope Francis equates failure with impatience. Ministry is a process not a quick fix. 

We find this remarkable comment from Pope Francis in Wikipedia. Pope Francis was a fan of a book, ‘The Theology of Failure” by a friend of his, Jesuit priest Fr. John Navone (1930-2016)  

(Translation from Italian) "It (patience) is a theme that I (Pope Francis) have pondered over the years after my having read the book of John Navone, an Italian American author, with the striking title, The Theology of Failure, in which he explains how Jesus lived patiently. In the experience of limits, he (Pope Francis) adds, patience is forged in dialogue with human limits/limitations. There are times when our lives do not call so much for our “doing” as for our “enduring,” for bearing up (from the Greek hypomone) with our own limitations and those of others. Being patient – he explains – means accepting the fact that it takes time to mature and develop. Living with patience allows for time to integrate and shape our lives."  

You can read more about this quotation in this interview with Fr Navone:

The fear of failure is discussed in the webpage of the Catholic Apostolate Centre. Evan Ponton works at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD and actively writes and serves in ministry with the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He says of the American experience of ministry. 

There’s a fear that’s crippling our call to discipleship today: The fear of failure.  Let me just say, this is hard as Americans. We love success. We’re taught from a young age to dream it, pursue it, seize it. We value success stories; we want to have a greater impact, to change the world, to maximize results. If we can achieve this in our faith and ministry, even better, right?
Well, maybe. This might be the message written into the American narrative, but it’s not necessarily the Gospel. Our assumptions start sounding odd alongside
the Beatitudes Jesus gave his followers, and his promise to the disciples foretelling persecution and rejection (Mt 10:16-23).”

Evan goes on to say that that failure may well be the prequel to redemption and resurrection, and that if we view failure as part of the whole, in a healthy balance, we can come to accept it as part of our ministry. It’s worth a read here.


Residents and their faith and prayer life.  The way that people have listened to God’s word or have prayed throughout their life influences how they enter into a chaplaincy setting with a visiting minister of the eucharist. Start with the Wellington Catholic Archdiocese webpage on spirituality for a Catholic overview on the subject.

 The Archdiocesan Liturgy and Prayer section has some resource links and prayer examples.

People in residential care have probably resolved most of their life issues, or have dispensed with resolving them because the issues have become beyond their reach. Probably no one resolves all their deeper life issues, regrets etc when they die but learn to live with them. Their prayer and your prayers will be of help to them. 


The Wounded Healer

Belgian priest, Henri Nouwen, wrote extensively about ministers needing to have a profound sense of their own woundedness and loneliness.  He did not advocate that one should speak about one’s life and faith wounds to those they minister. He proposed that one can only minister when one has found the centre of God’s love in one’s own life. Nouwen says that no one can provide their hospitality of soul to another while they are in turmoil from unresolved issues. It is only when a person has transformed their own woundedness into God’s love for them that they can create room for others.   Henri Nouwen’s book is available from many booksellers.    

Methods of Prayer  The Catholic Institute of Theology outlines several methods of praying which Christians will have unconsciously affected them and have used in their lives.This outline is not intended to cover everything about prayer but to raise some possibly helpful points.

 Our Father

The Church teaches that at its basic level prayer is about one’s relationship with God and the degree of affectionate relationship the prayer feels they have with God. The Church points to the prayer of Jesus (Our Father) as a model but also the situations in which Jesus prayed. Often these were in solitude. Jesus also praised God for making His will known to Him. Jesus was deep in prayer when the transfiguration occurred highlighting the spiritual transcendence a pray-er feels when praying to the Father. Jesus also tells us to pray often so that we can meet the demands of daily life.


Rosaries, Masses and Novenas

The Church reminds us of the communal aspect of our prayer such as Sunday masses and the sacraments, but also in paraliturgies such as Rosaries and Novenas. Many Catholics in ministry today prayer the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours along with religious and ordained ministers (priests, nuns etc)


Methods of Prayer   “Kataphatic” prayer has content; it uses words, images, symbols, ideas. “Apophatic” prayer has no content. It means emptying the mind of words and ideas and simply resting in the presence of God. Centering prayer is apophatic. Ignatian prayer is mostly kataphatic. (Ignatian website)Some of the best know methods of prayer that Christians will use are:

 Gospel contemplation (or Ignatian) where the pray-er meditates on gospel stories and scenes they may have read and which stuck with them. It is evident that Christians remember the parable stories such as the Prodigal son, The Good Shepherd, the Lost Coin, The Mustard Seed, The Hidden Treasure. These parable memories serve as seedbed for faith development and contemplative grace. Using these parable stories in favour over the current church readings may be a more fruitful way to minister. Because people remember their favourite parables or gospel stories and passages, it is likely these have served best in their faith development.      

Centering prayer – this is a prayer described in the 14 th century text, “The Cloud Of Unknowing”  The pray-er may have an image of God in text or imagination which leads them to a quietness of soul. The catechism of the catholic Church teaches that God is inexpressible, and at His essence cannot be defined in word of image by Christians. Our use of images of God helps us because we are created and need tangible imagery to help us along our prayer pilgrimages. But, similar to Divine or Eucharistic Adoration, our prayer may move from vocal and imaginative, from petition to the solitude which Jesus also sought.

Another method of prayer is that of the 17 th century Carmelite lay brother, Laurence of the Resurrection known as the presence of God. This attributes everything in life as gift because God is the creator. Laurence normalised the presence of God in his life in a simple way. This is similar to the ‘everything is gift’ prayer sentiment of today. 

 The way Christians in resthomes may have prayed will a faith experience which they will adhere to. As ministers we cannot see the presence of God in their prayer lives, (though it shines in some people) but we can be conscious of the ways of prayer. This awareness will help us in our ministry.


Some prayers you may find useful.

These can be used instead of a communion service if the resident is unable to engage in a communion service.


Prayer Blessing for someone who is old, sick, distressed etc


Lord Jesus Christ

Who knows and see all things

And to whom all things have been given.

Remember your servant (name)

Whose journy of life you know.

(Name) needs your help and support this hour.

Lord you know when we sit and stand;

you understand our thoughts from afar.

You sift through our travels and our rest;

with all our ways you are familiar.

Lord at this hour shower on (name) your gifts of healing

So that even when they are asleep or disturbed through illness

And lose memory of you -Do not lose memory of them.

From afar and close.

In your kindness and love

Remember them every day of their life,

Lord God in the confidence you have gifted us

And for (name) we make this prayer;

Through our Lord Jesus Christ; Amen.



All-powerful and ever-living God, in whom we live and move and have our being,

we thank you, and praise you

for giving those gathered here

years of living in faith and in doing good. i

Grant that they may have the loving support of their friends and relatives,

that in the best of health they may be cheerful, _

and in not so good health they ‘may not lose hope.

Sustained by the help of your blessing,

let them spend their years faithful to your word ‘

giving praise to your name.

And we ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen



(A reading based on Psalm 139)

Lord you know who I am and know everything I do.

From far away you understand all my thoughts.

You see me whether I am working or resting.

Even before I speak, you know what I will say.

You are around me on every side

Protecting me with the power of your love.

Your knowledge of me is to deep for me to understand.

Where would I go to escape from you?

Where would I go to get away from your presence.

If I went up to heaven you would be there.

If I flew beyond the East or the farthest place in the West,

You would be there to lead me and to help me.

You knew me before I was bom

You knew the number of days that would be given to me.

You created my heart and soul

And led me all the days of my life

With your words of love and life.

Today do not forget me

The work of your hands.

Be with me with your wonderful presence

When I am awake,

And when I am asleep

And everything in between.


David Ross June 2018