Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Apr
  • 19

Caring for sick priests; treating them like family

Posted By April 19, 2012 | 1:21 pm | Lead Story #1
sr bartelWEB

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

Anyone who’s cared for a sick family member knows it requires an extraordinary level of commitment.
As Minister to Retired Priests, Sister Mary Ann Bartell’s job is multiplied – many times over.
A geriatric nurse practitioner, she oversees the health care of elderly priests, many of whom could not live independently without her help.
“I think that people can really relate,” she said. “These priests are the family of the Church. They deserve treatment as any family member would.”
Her ministry is funded by Partners in Charity.
A member of the Carmelite Sisters of the Eucharist, Sister Mary Ann spends five days a week making sick calls. She also drives the priests to various doctor appointments, and, if necessary, picks up their prescriptions.
In addition, she monitors medications to make sure someone “doesn’t stay on something that’s not necessary for a long period of time.”
If a priest is hospitalized, Sister Mary Ann visits daily because, she
said, “they need an advocate.”
She also travels to Southgate at Shrewsbury, a retirement community,
five days a week.
Sister Mary Ann tries not to work

nights and weekends, but her hours are extremely unpredictable. If someone is in the emergency room, she meets them there.
“You can’t just let them go alone,” she said, noting that medical care has gotten very complex.
Emergency rooms, typically, involve a wait.
“I’ve been there as long as 18 hours,” she said.
Sister Mary Ann said her ministry wouldn’t have been needed a generation or two ago. That’s because very elderly priests could stay in a rectory, since enough younger folks were around to take care of them.
One of her goals is to reduce return visits to the hospital. She said, clinically, this is the best practice.
Sister Mary Ann also works hard to enable independent living, or if necessary, an assisted living complex.
This is also a cost-effective solution. Long-term care facilities typically charge $10,000 to $12,000 a month.
Sister Mary Ann was originally brought into the diocese by Bishop Daniel Reilly.
Bishop George Rueger serves as a liaison to Sister Mary Ann, as he knows all of the priests.
“She is extraordinary and she gives so much time,” Bishop Rueger said. “My point is that she is on-call morning to night, and sometimes even into the night.”
“Every priest knows deep down she is a terrific asset to our diocese,” he added.
The annual Partners in Charity Appeal has received pledges and gifts totaling $2,902,112, or 58 percent of the $5 million goal, as of noon Wednesday, according to Michael P. Gillespie, director of the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development.
Eight parishes have topped their goals, he said. Pledges and gifts from on-line giving have reached $163,234 so far, or almost double the $84,418 received last year. Members of the St. Paul Society, who pledge at least $5,000, have raised $523,000 so far.
The annual Partners in Charity Appeal  helps to support charitable, educational and ministerial organizations in the diocese. They include:
Charity: Catholic Charities, Clergy Retirement, Retired Priests Health Ministry, Haitian Apostolate, McAuley Nazareth Home for Boys, Pernet Family Health Service, Seminarian Health Insurance, St. John’s Diocesan Cemetery System, Diocesan Development, Stewardship.
Education: Catholic Campus Ministry, Catholic Schools Department, The Office of Religious Education, Ongoing Priestly Formation, Diocesan Youth Ministry, Grants-in-Aid for Catholic School Students, Seminarian Education, Central Catholic Schools Subsidy, Advanced Studies for Clergy and Laity.
Ministry: African Ministry, Hispanic Ministry, Office of Marriage and Family, Ministry to Priests, Office of the Diaconate, Respect Life Office, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Vocations Office, Office for Divine Worship.