For pastoral emergencies such as a death, dying, serious condition, accident, or anointing of the sick, please call the Parish offices at 763-972-2077.
WHEN DO I CALL THE PRIEST?
One of the most moving moments of my priesthood was when a man from my parish asked me to come and give last rites to his sister who had just gone on palliative care. She was in a hospital an hour away, so I needed at least a three-hour window, which I was having a hard time finding. It was a Friday and the soonest I could get there was Tuesday. He said that should be fine, there was no immediate risk. Suddenly, I realized I had a few hours free that afternoon, so I said, “Let’s go today.” When I got there, the not-so-old woman and I had a nice conversation, as she sat in her chair. I offered her all the sacraments of the Church and helped her to prepare for the moment the Lord would come for her. Well, he came sooner than we all thought… that night! Though it doesn’t always happen that way, it has happened that I arrive only moments after the person has died. This brings up the important question: When do we call the priest?
Earlier is better. We do have an emergency line at the parish which will get ahold of me anytime, day or night. Please, keep in mind, if you call me and say that your loved one is dying right NOW, I will drop everything and come. However, there is no guarantee that I will get there in time. I may be out of town, or saying Mass, or away from my phone. Don’t wait! When things take a turn, it’s time to call. The best time for the priest to come is when your loved one is still conscious and responsive.
The best-case scenario is for them to be able to confess their sins and receive absolution as well as the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, which ultimately prepares us for death. If death is very close, I will always impart the Apostolic Pardon, which is a very powerful indulgence prayer that a priest is able to bestow when the end is near. (You should make sure to ask for this prayer if a different priest performs last rites.) Even if the illness doesn’t end in death (or at least not right away), the grace of Anointing is the strengthening of the soul to endure suffering. If the illness lingers, then the priest can come again. But if he came a week or two before, there is no grave need to call the emergency line. Just fill the room with prayer. The recitation of the Rosary, or the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or reading the Psalms or Gospel of John out loud are great ways to prepare someone for Jesus.
Our primary obligation in life is to take care of our own soul! If we are the caretaker of someone else, that means it is our obligation to care for their soul as well! This should actually be our main consideration when we find out about a terminal condition: Call the priest. Get right with God. Prepare for death. The will, the health directives, the money, the funeral, can all wait. There is no greater consolation than knowing that our loved one died with the surety sacraments. Can God work outside of the sacraments? Of course, he can. But we are certain of his work inside of them. So, why wait?