"People who enter the hospital this week exit the next," he explained. "It is ministry in an environment where the people change all the time."
A more consistent form of ministry in the hospital, he said, is his contact with doctors and nurses. He offers Mass in the chapel and has a prayer group for nurses. There were plans for Lenten prayer groups and to offer a catechism course for staff at the hospital, but all that has changed.
"Right now, that it is not permitted to meet, [the nurses' prayer group is] communicating only through Whatsapp or over the internet," he said.
"We send prayers, encouraging messages. We are trying to bring them hope, strength, courage during these days."
Pluchinotta said doctors have asked the priests for prayers and said they are trusting in them. "We have multiplied the prayers during these days. Prayer gives us a lot of strength."
"Our [active] ministry has been replaced with much prayer, with intercession, which we priests believe in strongly," Pluchinotta stressed. "We believe God will help us a lot through prayer and drawing close to those cases… in the ways safety protocols will allow."
"We will continue to give the sacraments to the people who want them, who ask for them."
He said in his four and a half years as a hospital chaplain, first at a hospital for cancer patients, whenever he brought the sacraments to those who were ill, suffering, or in the last stages of life, he could visibly see the peace they brought.
Pluchinotta added that in a parish, priests see great life conversions much less frequently, maybe once per year, but in a hospital, a priest might see one or more per week.
"People have in front of them the understanding that they are at the end" and some return to the sacraments after many years away, he said.
"A beautiful thing about working in a hospital is frequently seeing these conversions with your own eyes."
(Story continues below)
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