October 21, 2022

Gifts of life, compassion and faith blend for people who bring Eucharist to others

As an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, Marianne Warthan of St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington believes her ministry is “the most rewarding one in the Church.” She displays a pyx, which holds Communion taken to sick and homebound Catholics. (Submitted photo)

As an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, Marianne Warthan of St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington believes her ministry is “the most rewarding one in the Church.” She displays a pyx, which holds Communion taken to sick and homebound Catholics. (Submitted photo)

Part one

By John Shaughnessy

For Marianne Warthan, life has always been about sharing the most special gifts.

In her 40 years as a nurse, she worked in the labor-and-delivery unit of Bloomington Hospital, helping to bring newborns into the world, assisting parents in their care for their child and sharing in the joy of the gift of life.

Her four decades as a nurse also led her to offer the gifts of comfort and compassion to parents whose children died at birth. She gave them the opportunity to hold their child, shared in their sorrow, made memory boxes for the parents that included their child’s footprints, a lock of hair, the baby’s blanket and a photo of the infant—and later she would phone the parents at home to check on them.

And for the past five years, the member of St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington has shared what she believes is the most special gift of her Catholic faith.

Warthan takes the Eucharist—the body of Christ—to people who are homebound, in nursing homes and at the hospital where she worked before retiring.

“To be able to bring Jesus himself to the sick and the needy is such a privilege,” she says. “I am able to share that God-given gift with others, and in return I am able to see God in others.”

That combination of gifts feeds Warthan and so many extraordinary ministers of holy Communion across the archdiocese—which is in the first year of a three-year National Eucharistic Revival that will culminate in July of 2024 when the first National Eucharistic Congress in nearly 50 years is held in Indianapolis.

Warthan describes this ministry of bringing the Eucharist to others as “the most rewarding one in the Church.”

“You see the joy in their hearts when they receive Jesus,” Warthan says. “And you meet such wonderful people. My favorite times are when I take Communion to people in their homes or the nursing homes because you establish a relationship with them. You get to know them.”

She talks about a woman who initially didn’t think she was worthy of receiving Communion. Warthan convinced her of God’s love for her, and the woman’s face showed her joy when she did receive Christ’s body.

Warthan’s voice also fills with delight when she mentions the retired professor in a nursing home who would detail the lives of the saints, talk about the angels, and pray the Our Father in French when Warthan brought her Communion.

She also shares the story of a woman who had a stroke.

“She would cry, and her eyes would light up when I came into the room. She was so excited to have Jesus.”

Her voice becomes touched with emotion as she adds, “You get attached to people. After a while, you’re telling them, ‘Jesus loves you, and so do I.’ It makes it really hard when you lose someone. I go to the funeral Mass and talk to the family.”

The special gifts of life, compassion and faith all blend in this ministry for her.

“It’s such a gift from God to be able to see how much people love him—that I can bring Communion to them, bring some comfort to them. It’s not a gift I’m giving. It’s a gift I’m receiving. And it makes me feel I’m doing something good for God.”

‘I will never forget you’

Like many people, Lynn Lineback finds inspiration in certain quotes and sayings to help guide her approach to her life and her faith.

One of her favorite quotes comes from the last five words of a Bible verse in Isaiah, which expresses this reminder from God: “I will never forget you” (Is 49:15).

Lineback carries those five words in her heart every week as she takes Communion to a 99-year-old Catholic woman in a nursing home in Richmond.

“She has no family. No one comes to see her,” says Lineback, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Richmond. “When I take her Communion once a week, every single week she says, ‘Oh, you didn’t forget me!’ ”

Just as touching to Lineback is the way that the 99-year-old woman embraces the opportunity to receive the Eucharist.

“She hasn’t forgotten the Lord.”

For Lineback, that weekly encounter defines the gifts she has received as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, as one of nine people in her parish who brings the sacrament to about 60 people in 11 facilities in the Richmond area and to Reid Memorial Hospital.

There’s the gift of sharing the Eucharist, and there’s the gift of seeing the power it has in people’s lives.

“Not only has God made it possible for me to be an instrument to all these older folks, but I get to see their great witness and testimony to Christ. Their belief that Jesus is truly coming to them in the Eucharist grounds me and helps preserve my faith. I believe so faithfully in the Eucharist being the body and blood of Christ.”

Lineback pauses before adding, “They all have their stories. I love listening to their stories of how they’ve endured. If you endure with the Lord, he will not abandon you. He will not forget you.”

At 70, Lineback has that same hope for herself.

“I’m alone,” she says. “I have no immediate family here. I have nieces and nephews, but they’re not close by. When I visit the older people, I see myself in 20, 25 years.

“I’m hoping that someone will carry that gift to me when I’m at that point. That I will not be forgotten.” †

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