Carole Blackburn began volunteering at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in January 2004 in the Eucharistic Lay Ministry (ELM). The ELM volunteer program employs six volunteers only, who minister to patients and families at St. Jude. Blackburn brings Holy Communion to Catholic in-patients and families on Sunday mornings.
Blackburn said her pastor asked members at her church if anyone would be willing to volunteer in an ELM position and Blackburn signed-up. Blackburn said when she began volunteering the only day she could serve was Sunday due to work during the week.
Many of the patients and families she visits are Hispanic, which led her to learn the prayers in Spanish. Blackburn said she also takes Communion to several nurses who are Catholic.
“Occasionally, the nurse who has the patient is a Catholic and she will go into the room with me. I think that helps the patients know that we are all praying for them,” Blackburn said.
She said she feels satisfaction knowing her volunteer service helps patients and families at St. Jude.
“I had no idea how this would affect me, and I have been amazed at how satisfying it has been,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn said the patients she visited over the last 14 years have left a deep impression on her.
“I have had several experiences with patients that I will never forget. We are meeting with patients and parents who are facing a life-threatening disease, and the privilege of praying with them is very powerful,” she said.
In particular, she described one patient in isolation who could not receive Holy Communion for many weeks due to contamination concerns. Blackburn described sharing the sacrament with the family and praying with them every Sunday.
Blackburn went above and beyond for this patient, having wine consecrated in a sterile container by her pastor. She said several days after she brought Communion to this patient, he passed away.
“Things like that are what make this ministry so meaningful and fulfilling,” Blackburn said. “I have given Communion to patients and the parents of children who were dying, and we have stood together and prayed for God’s blessing.”
Blackburn said St. Jude is the place to volunteer for those who desire a rewarding and interesting experience.
“People have various gifts, and I think it’s important for volunteer jobs to utilize those gifts to the best advantage,” Blackburn said.