This article is called The Bringer of Christ because it is the most fitting title for Fr. Jerry, Catholic Chaplain to the Civic Hospital in Ottawa.
I sat across from Fr. Jerry for close to an hour, gleaning everything I could about his ministry as Hospital Chaplain. I found myself, on more than one occasion, thinking, ‘this guy literally brings Christ to people all day, every day. Amazing.’
Fr. Jerry is a humble, gentle, and caring priest. He speaks with a light version of a maritime accent, although he hails from Lindsay, Ontario. He is the quintessential Canadian, adding “Eh” to most of his sentences.
Fr. Jerry won the Star of the City Award for his work as a hospital chaplain over a year ago. When asked about it, Fr. Jerry shrugged the award off as something that didn’t apply to him. He mentioned that most of the people who have won the award in the past have been involved in the tourism industry.
But, Fr. Jerry was recognized for a reason. He won the award because he touches people’s lives by his witness, his willingness, and his care.
I myself have been on the receiving end of Fr. Jerry’s care in the hospital on more than one occasion. Each time, I genuinely felt loved, seen, and cared for.
Fr. Jerry is at the hospital from 8AM to 4PM, Monday to Friday, plus time being on-call. He celebrates Mass at 12:00pm every day in the multi-faith chapel, which is shared by many different faiths and denominations. The rest of the time he spends visiting patients and family members, praying for them and with them, hearing confession, administering the sacrament of the sick, and offering Holy Communion.
His day is spent bringing Jesus to the people.
Being a hockey fan, Fr. Jerry has created his own hat trick. A hat trick is a phrase used in hockey to describe when a player scores 3 goals in one game.
Fr. Jerry gets a “hat trick” when he ministers to 1 patient, hearing their confession, offering Holy Communion, and administering the sacrament of the sick all in one day.
“There are times here that can be quite stressful.”
Amongst the many challenges he faces, Fr. Jerry has had to minister in the midst of tragic encounters, death, suicide, work related accidents, and even murder.
I asked him how he copes,
“It is part of self care. I think the Lord has given me a tremendous grace. I am sure that I carry it in a way that I am not even aware of. Living in Community is helpful; you can share these things with your brothers. I also love biking and skating on the Rideau Canal. Physical activity also burns off stress.”
Alongside the challenges, there are also moments of great joy. He receives many cards and small gifts of thanks for the ministry he provides, “These are nice moments.”
He boasts of one particular joy he has, sometimes being one of the first to visit parents with their newborn up in the maternity section. “I have had the opportunity, on a few occasions, to visit Mom and Dad up in the maternity section who just had a little baby boy or girl. I bring mom and dad Holy Communion, and offer a little blessing for the baby. So I am one of the first, along with family members, to see their new-born child!”
Challenges, joys, and powerful moments - Fr. Jerry’s days are full. He shared, “Many people, especially if they know they are dying, will call for the priest. Some of these people, who haven’t been living with the Lord and know this is their time, know they need to be reconciled to the Lord. These can be very powerful moments.”
In my time spent with Fr. Jerry something stood out above all the amazing stories and encounters – Fr. Jerry has taken seriously the call to go out and proclaim the Good News. A confessed introvert he admits that this ministry is “forcing me to come out of my shell.” However, he trusts that, “The Lord leads you.” He is always seeking the Lord and asking God what to do. “I enjoy hearing the Word (God’s voice) and acting on it (What God has said).”
“I enjoy little moments of evangelization. Fr. Bob said years ago, at one of our formation talks, that, ‘Every moment is an opportunity to evangelize’.”
Fr. Jerry's witness can practically teach us all how to be evangelists. We can all be Bringers of Christ. We can all be abandoned to the Lord, listen for his voice, and go where Jesus is asking us to go. It can actually be that simple.
"I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me." (Philippians 4:13)