by Fr. Bill Hubmann, C.PP.S.
In our first session at the members’ gathering in St. Louis in June, we sat at tables in triads and were asked to give a five-minute bio particularly about our lives in community and a significant event or moment as Precious Blood Missionaries.
I told of how in 1985 I arrived at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield, Wisconsin just as many young men with HIV/AIDS were coming home from the East and West coasts to die. Since I was the new chaplain, I was asked to take them on as part of my ministry. One, particular young man, “Buddy,” had come home from San Francisco. He arrived at a nearby airport where his family met him. He collapsed while exiting the plane and was brought to the hospital in an ambulance. Buddy was literally covered with Kaposi sarcoma from head to foot. He looked like he had been pummeled all about his face. In the family’s first meeting with the doctors after “Buddy’s” admission they discovered that he was gay, he had AIDS and he was dying. In shock and disgust, his family briefly saw him in his hospital room. He was on a ventilator, sedated, and unable to talk. After seeing him they quickly left the hospital not to return. “It was more than they could take,” they said. On their way out they gave the staff the name of a funeral home, that he was going to be cremated, and that they wanted everyone told that he had leukemia. “Buddy” was abandoned by his family and feared by the medical staff assigned to treat him in Intensive Care. Many covered themselves with all available protective gear. I was assigned as his chaplain and refused to wear anything more than a gown and gloves as protective gear. It just got in the way. “Buddy” had been under the care of the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland for the last six months. When contacted by the hospital about “Buddy’s” condition, the NIH said that they had nothing more to offer. There was no more that could be done but comfort measures. “Buddy” asked to be taken off the ventilator and let go. For the several days he was in St. Joe’s I sat by his bedside, held his hand, spoke of how he was a beloved child of God and how God would never abandon him. I did all that I could to comfort him. In recalling this instance I realized that it was God, St. Gaspar, and the Precious Blood community that called me to ministry and put me in this place.
Almost as an aside another member of our triad told of how he recently took a carload of Confirmation candidates to do volunteer work at a homeless shelter. It was very much an eye-opening event for him and for the young people. When they got back in the car to head home there was a sudden, unexpected pounding on the window. It was one of the homeless men. The car door opened and this homeless man got down on his knees alongside the car, reached in, and tied the shoelaces of one of the Confirmation candidates. Looking into the eyes of the student the homeless man said: “We all have to take care of one another.” A tear ran down the young man’s cheek as he realized that while he had come to “care for another,” he himself was now the one who was cared for. The one who came to ministered was ministered to.
The call to compassionate accompaniment is part of our Precious Blood DNA.