HASTINGS (SNR) – Hastings Catholic Outreach is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
The late Bobbie Donahue, a member of St. Cecilia parish, provided the original leadership with the help of the late Mary Jo Connely. St. Michael parishioners Cookie Hervert, Mary Ann Dobrovolny, and the late Judy Hoffman were also among the first to be involved. Bobbie Donahue served as coordinator for St. Cecilia and Mary Ann Dobrovolny was the St. Michael coordinator.
From the beginning, it has been a lay ministry that seeks to support parishioners who are homebound, or who are in nursing homes or hospitals. Currently, Outreach volunteers visit the sick in Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital, visit parish members in the local nursing homes and regularly lead the rosary for them.
Volunteers also visit newborns and their families, welcome new members into their respective parishes, extend sympathy to the bereaved, and remember all parishioners in their prayers.
“Interacting with people through our Catholic Outreach organization is a real blessing for me personally,” said member Mary Ann Dobrovolny who regularly leads the rosary in a care facility. “I feel that I often gain far more than they do, and everyone is so appreciative.”
She said she takes great joy in seeing residents who may have severe memory loss participate flawlessly in the prayers.
Dick Hawes, a member of the outreach ministry for more than 20 years, said being visited by the group when he was a patient in the hospital after surgery encouraged him to join.
“I was very grateful and impressed with their visit,” he recalled. “I decided that if God would grant that if I would be a cancer survivor and after I retired from teaching, I would volunteer to join the group. God was good to me, and I had to keep my promise.”
Father Michael Houlihan, longtime pastor of St. Michael Parish, was chaplain of the organization for the past 17 years, until he received a new appointment to serve as pastor of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Plattsmouth. Father Jeremy Hazuka, the new pastor at St. Michael, is the current chaplain.
“The priests do an excellent service in visiting almost every day in praying and giving Communion, and hearing confessions if requested,” Hawes added. “But most patients appreciate a break in their day of tests, shots, and therapy, from a lay person from the church with an understanding heart to express God’s compassion and concern with a smile, friendly visit, and listening ears.”
After a brief visit, he described, the members leave them with a prayer card, a brochure on Catholic Outreach which includes special prayers, the offer of a rosary if they wish, and saying prayers for their recovery with them.
“We leave with a feeling of peace and contentment that hopefully we have been able to express God’s compassion and concern through our visit,” he said.
Dee Busboom was the coordinator for St. Cecilia Parish for many years, and Judy and Gale Bullard have been the coordinators for both parishes since her death.