Father Joseph's Reflection
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Last week I was called to the hospital to anoint a woman who was near death. Apparently the only family she had was a very elderly mother who lived out of state, so the only person other than me was the staff Chaplain of the hospital. I asked that since the woman had no relatives in the area, and her mother was so elderly; what was to become of her after she passed away? It sounded like there was a good chance that she would simply slip through the cracks, without a funeral or burial. I volunteered take care of whatever needed to be done, as long as the mother was okay with it. At first I planned to just take care of it myself, I’ll often do that if a cause appeals to me personally but not necessarily the parish. As I drove home though, it hit me. Here was this woman, dying far from family and friends; all alone. Without my intervention, she would have more or less slipped into obscurity.

Now, I don’t know the woman’s story. I don’t know how she came to be out here all alone thousands of miles from any loved ones. I don’t know the choices she made, or the kind of life she led. I don’t know how she lived her faith, or if she even practiced it at all. What I do know is that she is part of our family. As a baptized Christian, she is a member of God’s household and a sister to us and deserves to be treated with dignity. Not just left on some shelf because no one was around to care for her remains. No person should have to die alone, no person should be forgotten, and no person should slip through the cracks. We at Sacred Heart won’t allow such a thing. We know that our faith is more than just a matter of words but concrete actions. Who among us feels that we shouldn’t do all we can to care for this soul and hand her over to God? If this means some financial contribution, we’ll do what we can. If this means planning her funeral, we can do that as well. If it means gathering in prayer to send off a woman none of us even know, so be it! In the eyes of God, all His children are precious. Because we are His body on earth, we need to treat them as a cherished child of God.

Prayers Always, Fr. Joseph Altenhofen