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Bedside Baptism

Dear Parishioners and Friends,

Having been ordained for fifty one years, it’s not often that a priest would have a “first time experience.” Fr. Gurnick invited me to write an article for the bulletin this week about the “first &me experience” I had a little over one month ago.

On a Wednesday in June Fr. Gurnick approached me with a request. He told me that he had just received a call from a neighborhood care center saying that a resident had expressed to several of the people on staff a strong desire to be bap- tized and was now “actively dying.” The care center had contacted Fr. Gurnick with this information. Fr. Gurnick told me that he had office appointments for the next two hours, so he wouldn’t be able to respond to the request in a timely manner. Since the man was described as “actively dying”, Fr. Gurnick asked me if I would be able to go sooner. I said, “Certainly, I can go right now.”

I went to my room in the rectory and got a small holy water bottle and went on my way. When I arrived, I identified myself as a priest from St. Patrick’s and was here to baptize “Joseph”, not his real name. I was directed to the second floor room where I found Joe, several friends of his and a staff member of the facility. I was greeted with expressions of appreciation for coming.

Joe was not responsive. However, although a person in this condition might not be able to speak, they may still be able to hear. Consequently, I told the people in the room that I was going to speak rather loudly.

I spoke to Joe, identifying myself and telling him I was there to baptize him. I began by praying the Nicene Creed, which we pray every Sunday at Mass. It is one of the most ancient creeds of the Catholic Church. It was formulated at the Council of Nicea in the year 325 AD (now part of modern day Turkey). Everyone in the room prayed the Our Father with me and then I baptized him, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

I spoke briefly to the other people in the room. They expressed their gratitude to me and I thanked them for being friends of Joe, and said goodbye. As I went to my car to drive back to the rectory, I began to reflect, at some length, upon what just transpired.

At one point, I thought, “Mark, the next time Joe opens his eyes might be to see the face of God.” That really moved me to the core of my being. I was truly humbled to be there at Joe’s bedside and bring him into the family of God, preparing him to “meet his Maker.”

Several days after my visit, Joe did die. When I got that news, I went to the rectory chapel and celebrated Mass for “Joe.” May he rest in the peace of our Loving Triune God. Amen.

Sincerely in the Risen Lord,

Father Mark Hollis