Groups of priests have been brought together to administer the sacramental anointing of Coronavirus patients in the Archdiocese of Boston. The priests are living together at strategic locations near hospitals with the sole aim of being available to administer anointing of the sick.
The ministry of volunteer priests began on the weekend of April 18. The ministry consists of 80 trained Catholic priests with 30 doing the active administration of the sacrament while the rest provide backup.
The Vice-Rector of St John’s Seminary in Boston, Father Tom McDonald who is part of the volunteer priests describe the program as a wonderful experience. Fr. Tom compared their mission to firefighting when he spoke to the Catholic News Agency.
“It’s a wonderful experience of priestly fraternity to live in the house. It’s sort of like— I would imagine— living as a firefighter in a firehouse. We’re here, we get calls, we rush out, we come back,” Fr. Tom told CNA.
The 50 backup priests run errands for those administering the sacraments. They provide food and get living spaces like empty rectories ready for their colleagues while they work. Hospital staff also help the priests to put on and remove PPE’s in order to prevent infection from the Coronavirus. The priests are trained to minimize times spent with patients.
Father Tom McDonald said he had been called to attend to several patients already. He expressed worry about how they are unable to do their job due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s very hard being a priest and not being able to celebrate the sacraments for the people, so this opportunity is a great relief in a sense— to do what we were ordained to do,” he said.