“Part of the Church”: Maine Priests Bringing Nursing Home Masses to Camden

CAMDEN---“Christ is always present whenever we gather in his name,” says Bishop Deeley. “And in our difficulties, God is with us and Jesus walks with us.”

Many don’t realize the level of daily commitment that is exhibited by Maine priests to provide Catholics with the opportunity to gather for Mass and receive the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Catholic faith.

In addition to welcoming the faithful to hundreds of Masses offered in parish churches each day, priests also make time to journey to those who cannot come to them for the celebration of Mass, including those living in nursing homes.

“One of the reasons is that these are people who have been active in church when they were in good health and some even attended daily Masses,” said Fr. Anthanasius Wirsiy. “I think it is right and fitting to attend to them and bring them the sacraments, above all the Holy Mass.”

Fr. Wirsiy is the new administrator of St. Brendan the Navigator Parish in Camden, Rockland, Belfast, and Islesboro, and he, as well as the parish’s new parochial vicar, Fr. Divine Fossoh, are natives of Cameroon.

Now established at their new parish home in Maine, Fr. Wirsiy and Fr. Fossoh are launching an initiative to serve these communities of grateful believers. The pair will celebrate Masses at Windward Gardens and Quarry Hill on alternating Wednesdays starting in June.

“Masses will be at 10 a.m., and we are inviting parishioners and other Catholics to attend, participate, and help out,” said Fr. Anthanasius. “Efforts are underway to see if more nursing home Masses can be set up in our surrounding communities.”

Priests celebrate Masses in nursing homes across the state, from Forest Hill in Fort Kent to Rising Hill in Caribou to Saint André in Biddeford, and it is something that Fr. Anthanasius has done since his arrival in Maine in 2016, during his time as a hospital chaplain in Portland and as a parish priest in Bucksport.

“Going to the nursing homes frequently as a priest makes those living there feel good. They are part of the Church,” he said. “It’s important for them to know that the Church has not abandoned them in their present conditions.”

At each Maine parish, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion assist priests in distributing the Eucharist to parishioners residing in nursing homes on a regular basis.

“I do appreciate the great work of our extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, but it cannot only end at that. As a priest, I feel obliged to celebrate Masses there frequently,” said Fr. Anthanasius.

And the joy of the experience is shared by residents and celebrants alike.

“When you offer the Mass there, the joy you get from them enlightens you and makes you happy,” said Fr. Anthanasius.

“The residents know the importance of drawing strength and hope from the relationship they have with God in Jesus Christ,” said the bishop. “We can truly be grateful for that witness.”

For more information about the new Camden initiative or to help out, contact the parish at 207-236-4785.