A tireless group of volunteers grace the hallways at St. Joseph’s Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care twice a week, helping residents stay close to God.
Transporting 70 residents to and from Mass twice a week is a big job, but every single volunteer feels it is well worth the time, effort and mileage.
“Each volunteer walks about three to four kilometres,” says Ellenor Castle, who is responsible for scheduling and coordinating the volunteers. “Bringing patients to chapel and back up to their floor is a lot of leg work. Some days when we don’t have enough volunteers, one person transports more than 20 patients by themselves.”
One by one, residents are brought into the chapel, most of them by wheel chair. Not only are the volunteers responsible for getting the residents to church, but they also keep a watchful eye to ensure there are no issues throughout Mass, and to respond quickly if there is a problem. “We ensure they are comfortable and safe,” says Ellenor.
The volunteer group is made up of mostly seniors, which makes this troupe very impressive as they work tirelessly to ensure God remains a part of the lives of the patients who reside at Mount Hope.
Ranging in years of service from John Witlox who has been a volunteer for 20 years, to newbie Caroline Carbobe, who started just over eight months ago – each volunteer expresses their joy in helping.
“They become family,” laughs Ellenor. “If you miss a day, the patients ask ‘where were you?’ They really look forward to seeing us.”
John Witlox’s mother became a resident at Mount Hope and even after she passed away, he stayed on and continued portering people to Mass. “Some of the residents are very religious, spending a lot time in prayer,” says John. “This is a beautiful break in their day.” John refers to his volunteer work at Mount Hope as his Sunday golf game. “I enjoy this so much. The happiness we receive from the residents is ten-fold what we put in. The joy in their eyes, the smiles on their faces; I feel very blessed to be a part of this group.”
When asked why this particular vocation is so important to the volunteers, it’s clear to see God is just as important to them, as it is for the residents of Mount Hope.
However, the job can have its ups and downs. Besides the physical exertion, the volunteers establish relationships with the residents. “It can be a bit hard when someone passes away, but I always remember why I am doing this,” says John.
The residents aren’t the only people who are grateful. Fr. Peter Poel says Mass wouldn’t be possible without the troupe. “Without their dedication to generously serve patients and help keep the Eucharist a central part of their lives, this couldn’t happen.”
Margaret Vanderheyden, Mount Hope chaplain, understands the importance of the volunteers in the lives of patients. “Through the eyes of a resident, the volunteers become friends, someone to talk with, share with, someone they depend on, a lifeline to activities they wish to attend. There is an expression – the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others – that embodies the life of our volunteers at Mount Hope.”
The group however admittedly needs more help. “It’s such a fulfilling experience, but it can also be tiring,” says volunteer Yvon Bergeron. “Most of us are seniors, so the more help we have – the better!”
Chapel runs from 10:15 to 11:00 am on Wednesdays and Sundays and is always a full house, as one of the volunteers quite simply stated, “Chapel is where they want to be.”
If you would like to help patients attend chapel and stay close to God, please contact Wendy Pedersen in Volunteer Services at 519 646-6055.