From its inception on July 12, 1974, this Ministry of Care was commissioned to "minister to the sick and aged of the Diocese" (taken from the letter of appointment front Bishop Albert R. Zuroweste to Fr. Gene Neff). Included in the letter of appointment was also a specific reference to providing Catholic chaplaincy to the patients of Belleville's Memorial Hospital and the residents of Four Fountains Nursing Center, Memorial Convalescent Center, St. Paul Home, Castlehaven Care Center and Calvin Johnson Nursing Center. Chaplaincy at these facilities began immediately. By July, 1975, Fr. Gene Neff, Director and Chaplain, had included Swansea Care Center, Royal Heights Nursing & Rehab. Center and Willowcreek Nursing Home to the list of the those being served. Rosewood Care Center was added years later. All of these facilities were in the Belleville, IL Metro area.

Within one year the framework of a ministry to and with our Elders, and at Memorial Hospital had begun to take shape. Ministry was interpreted to mean more than just "administering" the sacraments. The Ministry To Sick & Aged(MSA) moved in the direction of a ministry of wellness. From the beginn ing the focus of the MSA strove to be: sacramental, pastoral, and educational. Where appropriate it responds to spiritual, material, and psycho-social needs of the residents of long-term care facilities. Within this three-pronged focus, the MSA made an effort to respond to the needs of the sick and dying, and our Elders throughout the Diocese. While it was not humanly possible for Fr. Neff to celebrate the sacraments at each nursing home throughout Southern Illinois on a regular basis, the MSA has come to provide service to the sick, the aging, the bereaved, and persons with disabilities by also serving as a source of information and referral.

A detailed year by year history of the MSA is available through the Diocesan MSA Office. The remainder of this article will highlight the accomplishments of the MSA throughout it's history in three focus areas.

The Sacramental Ministry of the MSA:
From the beginning Fr. Gene Neff has celebrated Mass and the communal Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick on a regular basis at the long term care facilities listed above. Over the years, following his additional appointments as Pastor of St. Luke Parish, Belleville, St. John the Baptist, Red Bud, and Sacremental Minister at St. Joseph, Lebanon and St. George, New Baden, Fr. Neff has been joined by Frs. Jones, Balestreri, Kownacki, Orumpakkatt, Ancheril, and Gore in the celebration of the liturgy in the long term care facilities.

A great need that was clearly expressed in the very beginning was the need to be available at Memorial Hospital and all facilities in the case of emergencies. That need was immediately addressed by the use of a pager.Initially this service was funded by the MSA budget. While each facility is now requested to first try to contact the clergy of the patient's choice in an emergency, a cell phone enabled Fr. Neff to respond when that is not possible. Today, the cell phone has replaced the pager. The MSA continues to make every effort to respond to emergency, and special requests at any time when the requested pastoral minister of a person is not available, or when the person is not affiliated with any particular parish.

The Sacramental Ministry of the MSA is the "hub" of a response to the spiritual needs of patients and residents. In November, 1974, the sacramental ministry took a big step forward with the establishment of a Volunteer Program. The first three volunteers were Mrs. Cleota Paoli, Mrs. Marie Timmer, and Mrs. Evelyn Casperson. Over the years, nearly 300 people have been a volunteer for the MSA. A primary role of the volunteer has been to share Christ in the Eucharist with the patients at Memorial Hospital and the long term care facilities. Many others provide music for the celebration of Mass, and are involved in a variety of other programs.

Today, under the direction of Assistant MSA Director Mrs. Connie Barre, 50+/- volunteers distribute Eucharist daily at Belleville, IL, Memorial Hospital, on a regular basis at most area nursing homes, provide musical accompaniment at Mass, raise funds, etc.

The Pastoral Ministry of the MSA
The one-on-one visit by lay volunteers and clergy is the cornerstone of the pastoral focus of the MSA. It is in the interpersonal encounter that needs are discovered and the spirit is healed. Some needs that the MSA encountered repeatedly have led to programs to address them.

In response to the desire by nursing home residents to leave the environs of a nursing home for occasional trips, a 12 passenger van was purchased and made available to nursing homes in 1976. Refreshed from a shopping trip, dining out, etc., residents would speak for days of their "day out." One of the annual events that has been anticipated is the Annual Summer Outing. Begun in 1976, an average of 350 residents with 150 staff and volunteers spend a day at the Diocesan Pastoral Center enjoying fellowship, entertainment, and good food.

The MSA has also responded to needs of Elders living in private homes. For a while the "Roadrunners," 10 individuals using their own vehicles, provided a transportation service for the homebound. With the advent of DARTS(Sr. Transportation Service) by Southwestern Illinois College'sPrograms and Services for Older Persons, this service was discontinued. The MSA has received frequent gifts of medical supplies, e.g. wheelchairs, walkers, commodes, etc. For many years individuals living in private homes have borrowed this medical equipment, enabling them to remain at home during recovery from illness or until death.

Ministry to persons with disabilities and bereavement ministry has almost always been a part of the MSA. In 1976, Fr. Neff was asked by former Chancellor of the Belleville Diocese, Msgr. Bernard Sullivan, to serve as Diocesan contact to the National Conference of Bishops' national office of ministry to persons with disabilities. It was during that same year that the MSA rehabilitated and remodeled a group home at SAVE (St. Clair County Associated Vocational Enterprises). Located at Turkey Hill, a former US Air Force radar station, SAVE provides group home living for the developmentally disabled. Today, ministry with the persons with disabililies is primarily limited to information and referral when requests for assistance are received.

Bereavement is ongoing. Most is provided during pastoral visits with residents of the nursing homes and in the hospital setting. Whether a late night emergency call to Memorial Hospital or a room visit following the celebration of Mass in a nursing home, lay volunteers and clergy bring the compassion of Christ in times of need. But the MSA also stepped in to provide bereavement ministry for the youth of Southern Illinois when it was not being offered.

Assistant MSA Director, Mrs. Connie Barre, was a trained director for the Rainbows For All God's Children bereavement program. For a period of time in the 1990's when the program would have been disbanded due to a lack of a trained director, Mrs. Barre guided this bereavement program for young people experiencing a significant loss from the death of a grandparent, parent, divorce, etc.. "Rainbows" not only continued, but was extended to include youth attending public schools as well as parochial schools in Southern Illinois.

The Educational Ministry of the MSA
One of the goals of the MSA has centered around trying to advocate for the dignity of life for our Elders. A key to accomplishing this is education - education of staff, volunteers, and the community.

Periodically, MSA volunteers are provided the opportunity for days of reflection. These days will sometimes focus on spiritual renewal, and others will challenge existing attitudes. MSA staff has been available to give presentations on a wide variety of topics pertaining to aging, death & dying, the sacrament of anointing, bereavement, retirement, and spiritual care for Elders. From Shawneetown to Lawrenceville, from Menard Prison to Olney, from Belleville to Marissa, from Waterloo to Alton, in nursing homes, schools and churches, even to Indianapolis and Philadelphia, MSA staff has tried to be available to share when possible insights gleaned from years of experience and formal education.

To advocate for the rights and dignity of Elders, the sick, persons with disabilities, and the bereaved, MSA staff have continued their own formal education. Her formal training in the "Rainbows" program, and a recent Master of Science degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, has enabled Mrs. Barre to train advocates for persons in parishes in the Belleville Diocese, facilitators to work with grieving children, MSA volunteers in nursing homes and Memorial Hospital. MSA Director, Fr. Neff was awarded a certificate in gerontology from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in May 1994, and a Master of Arts degree in gerontology from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO, in December 1998. Fr. Neff also received training from the Association for Senior Adult Ministry in St. Louis, MO, in November 1995 to assist Diocesan Clergy plan for a healthy retirement. This service is also for retired clergy to enrich the Third Age of their life.

The history of the Ministry to Sick & Aged is one of service that strives to bring wellness, dignity, and respect to those who are the most broken among us. And by the grace of God and the support of the Church of Southern Illinois we rededicate our efforts to: a) being a compassionate Christ to those to whom we a minister; b) to being an advocate for the rights and dignity of aging brothers and sisters; c) to being a resource to parishes striving to be a ministry of wellness in the Church.

Following this history, you will find a listing of the services provided by the Ministry To Sick & Aged of the Diocese of Belleville:


This listing of services contains services presently provided, as well as services that we hope to provide in the months and years ahead, or whenever requested.


Since July 12, 1974, this ministry has been known as the Ministry To Sick & Aged.

In an effort to be more inclusive in a name that speaks to who we minister with and to, the Ministry To Sick and Aged will keep the original name, but has included a subtitle: A Ministry of Care

We seek to bring the care of a compassionate Christ to those suffering physical illness, our elders, persons with disabilities, and the bereaved. It is our hope that Ministry of Care will come to be a name that is used when referring to the work of the Catholic Diocese of Belleville's Mnistry To Sick & Aged.


To commemorate 25 years of service to the Church of Southern Illinois, a new logo was adapted by the MSA Advisory Board at the March 25, 1999 meeting. For a while the new logo will appear alongside the original logo. The meaning of both logos is as follows:

New Logo
Wagon Wheel - Aging/The Cycle of Life
Cross - Christ is the hub of the wheel
Flame - Holy Spirit gives courage
Wheat - Eucharist nourishes for the journey
Starfish - Draws life & wholeness from water. Every individual is important

Original Logo
Chi-Ro - Christ is the key
Outer Lines - key hole; lock
Christ is the key that unlocks hope for the ill and aging.


On January 1, 2011, the oldest members of the "Baby Boomer" generation began the "Senior Boomer" generation. It will be a demographic revolution that will present many challenges for society. What will the Catholic community, ministries devoted to our Elders, this Ministry to Sick and Aged do to meet the challenges now of the coming revolution?

As we look to the future, we envision this Ministry will:
- advocate:
          - for the rights and dignity of Elders
          - for dignity, value, and inclusion of persons with disabilities in parishes
- promote Senior Adult Ministry in Parishes
- network:
          - for parish wellness programs
          - for parish senior adult ministries
- maintain a Catholic Community presence in nursing homes:
          - but continually reassess the best way to accomplish this
          - be open to a presence that is meaningful to the changing situation in long term care
- continue to provide ministry to Belleville's Memorial Hospital
- provide educational opportunities that enhances:
          - preparation for retirement
          - knowledge of the aging process
          - the dignity of Elders in society



we affirm the dignity of human life of the sick and the elder members of the Southern Illinois faith community through a spiritual, sacramental, educational and pastoral ministry.


  1. Minister to the spiritual needs of Catholic patients of Belleville Memorial Hospital.

  2. Minister to the spiritual needs of residents in Belleville area long-term care facilities.
    • this could entail continuation of present programming
    • maintain an active volunteer program

  3. Develop a support network for all MSA Volunteers.
    • educate volunteers for ministry with elders and the sick
    • develop a faith community among volunteers
    • assist parishes in developing ministry to aging and the sick

  4. Be an Advocate in the areas of justice pertaining to the aging population

  5. Be an Advocate for ministry for:
    • persons with disabilities
    • the bereaved

  6. Develop an Information and Resource Center for Parish Wellness/Nurse Programs.

Summer Picnic for Nursing Home Residents

Summer Picnic for Nursing Home Residents


  1. Minister to the spiritual needs of Catholic patients of Belleville Memorial Hospital.
  2. Minister to the spiritual needs of residents in Belleville area long-term care facilities.
  3. Maintain an active volunteer program.
  4. Assist parishes in developing ministry to aging and the sick.
  5. Advocacy for the sick, aging, persons with disabilities, and the bereaved.
  6. Provide information, resource and referral service for parish wellness/nurse programs.
  7. Be an educational resource on a variety of topics related to wellness, aging and bereavement.

Copyright ⰱ2 Catholic Ministry To Sick And Aged
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