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Through the Viewfinder: St. Mary parishioners minister to the sick

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Sister Irene Lara, from left, Rita Tebbetts and Jacque Stahlman say the Lord’s Prayer with Mary Lou Paine, center, while Tebbetts offers Paine the Eucharist.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Sister Irene Lara, from left, Rita Tebbetts and Jacque Stahlman say the Lord’s Prayer with Mary Lou Paine, center, while Tebbetts offers Paine the Eucharist.

After attending Mass and receiving Communion each Wednesday morning, ten parishioners from St. Mary Basilica get into their cars and, instead of driving home, visit the sick and elderly to offer Communion.

For approximately 30 years, Rita Tebbetts has served as a minister to the sick. Giving communion at the local nursing homes and hospitals is a wonderful experience, she said.

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat —  Rita Tebbetts, center, jokes with Mildred Slavik, left, and Rosie Fly after Tebbetts gave them communion.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Rita Tebbetts, center, jokes with Mildred Slavik, left, and Rosie Fly after Tebbetts gave them communion.

“We know how important our faith is to us,” Tebbetts said. “When we see others who can’t go to church, it reminds us of how precious the opportunity to receive the Eucharist is.”

Softly knocking on the door of Mary Lou Paine’s room at Adams County Nursing Center, Tebbetts, Jacque Stahlman and Sister Irene Lara enter and are greeted with a big smile.

Stahlman bows her head and begins Communion with the Our Father. As she began the second stanza, Tebbetts, Lara and Paine join in.

“Would you like to receive Communion?” Tebbetts asked Paine after the prayer is completed.

Removing a paper-thin circular disc from the purse around her neck, Tebbetts lifted the Eucharist.

“This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,” she said. “Happy are those who are called to His supper.”

Paine raised her head and accepted the Eucharist from Tebbetts, touching her head, heart, left shoulder and then her right shoulder.

“For many, receiving the Eucharist is very important,” the Rev. David O’Connor said. “It gives the receiver a connection with God and helps further their relationship with him.”

All four women bow their heads once more in prayer before Tebbetts, Stahlman and Lara leave Paine’s room to continue their visits with other residents.

“They come every week and pray with and for me,” Paine said. “It’s really special. I thank God for these ladies and how much they help me.”

Walking down the hallway back to the car, Tebbetts and Stahlman wave to other residents before signing out and returning home.

“Their faces light up when we pray with them and say ‘hello,’” Tebbetts said. “Afterwards, they thank us. But we thank them as well, because it’s equally a blessing to us.”

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