PALOS HEIGHTS, Ill. (January 2016) — At Providence of Palos Heights, Alice Doherty is a blessing.
Every week, Alice brings the Eucharist to the Catholic residents and patients at the community. She serves faithfully, visiting more than 20 people each Friday. She also takes turns with other volunteers for Sunday visits, sometimes seeing more than 40 people on those days.
Alice is a Eucharistic minister in the Catholic Church. Along with her service at rehab center, she also leads the rosary before morning mass at Incarnation Parish in Palos Heights.
The parish — right down the street from the Providence community — “adopts” and cares for Catholic residents at Providence. They not only serve the Eucharist to individual residents, but also hold communion services in the chapel and administer the anointing of the sick. Alice serves as a Minister of Care — along with the Eucharist, she brings residents words of hope and encouragement.
“Alice spends time sharing the message that the priest gives at morning Mass; she also prays during her visits,” said Diane Giglio, Life Enrichment Director at Providence of Palos Heights. “She gets to know the clients personally.”
These clients are recovering from illnesses, injuries, or surgeries, and they won’t be at their own churches or with their congregations for a while. Some are long-term residents who require 24-hour skilled nursing care.
“The people are wonderful; I love what I do,” Alice said. “I just want to be a faithful follower of Christ, to follow him and bring people to him. I want to be a joyful person, bringing joy in Christ by the way that I live, the way I talk. I hope God lets me do that for a long time.”
Alice prays with client Kathleen Smith.
Her impact on those she visits is evident — in their thanks, their smiles, their handshakes, their hugs.
During her first week at Providence, Kathleen Smith waited eagerly for Alice to stop by.
“She’s your connection to the church,” Kathleen said. “It was beautiful, very spiritual.”
Another client, Patricia Biernacki, said that Alice is very thoughtful, and her visits are very important.
“It means a lot to me, because she always has a beautiful verse to say,” she said. “It reminds us of the things Our Lord would like us to remember.”
It’s not just residents who appreciate her time and commitment. Staff members greet Alice as she travels from room to room, visiting clients.
“Alice is someone that has become pretty well-known in this community,” Diane said. “The clients and residents, as well as the staff, know when to expect her. They share many of the prayer needs and concerns with Alice because she makes them feel so comfortable, and so important in our eyes and in the eyes of God.”
Alice has been volunteering at Providence since 2009. She moved to Palos Heights in 2008, and soon had a chance meeting with Diane, who also attends church Incarnation Parish. At the time, Alice was looking for ways to get involved in her new church. Diane was looking for volunteers.
“Alice has really grown the ministry,” Diane said. “The Minister of Care volunteer from the parish used to come on Sunday mornings. Alice offered to visit the rehab clients on Friday afternoons, too, when she noticed that many of them missed the Wednesday communion service because of their therapy schedule.”
Alice knows firsthand how important her service is for patients. She had two knee replacements and has stayed at Providence to recover from both of them. “The staff was all good, kind, and serving. All the people here were great servers — therapists, nurses, aides, cafeteria workers, and Diane’s group (life enrichment),” she said. “Being a patient make a difference — I understand how important this (Eucharist) is.”
Alice is now back on her feet, and she’s the one serving again. “You’re an inspiration,” Diane told her.
Alice’s commitment has not gone unnoticed — she was recently recognized for her service to the church with the Christifideles Award, which the Archdiocese of Chicago gives to lay men and women for their dedication to the church and their ministries.
When asked what the award means to her, tears spring to her eyes. “You have no idea,” she said. “It’s humbling.”
She received her award January 10 at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. The Archbishop of Chicago gave her a medal and a certificate.
“It was a beautiful day — I don’t know what else to say. I’ll never forget it.”
And there are many people at Providence who will never forget Alice.
“(Her visit) means the world,” Margaret Bosse said. “Without it, I don’t know what I would do. It strengthens my faith.”
Providence Life Services is a not-for-profit organization, and our ministry is truly blessed by people who offer their time, their skills, and their resources in countless ways. If you’d like to join us in our efforts to enhance the lives of the seniors we serve, please click here.
Read more about volunteers at — and from — Providence communities: