Care Team volunteer builds relationships through home visits Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Apr. 14, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
cc volunteer
Mary Nellis (right) and her husband, Bob (center), visit Betty Bormett (left) at Bormett’s home in Madison. The Nellises are part of the Parish Care Team through St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Madison and Catholic Charities Madison. Care Team members volunteer to help the homebound or those living alone to preserve a rich and independent lifestyle through home visits and other means. (Contributed photo)

MADISON — “It’s a very personal ministry, taking care of people.”

For the past 10 years, Mary Nellis of Madison has been involved in that “personal ministry.”

She is one of two team leaders of the Parish Care Team at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Madison.

Nellis said the mission of the care team is “to be able to keep [those homebound or living alone] as independent as possible with a little bit of support from the parish and from fellow parishioners.”

Team members offer friendly visits and phone contacts; assistance with shopping, errands, and household tasks; along with emotional support, prayer, and home Communion visits.

“We will go in and bring the Eucharist to them and visit with them,” said Nellis, “and share something from the Mass the previous weekend, or just do a social visit with somebody who is lonely and who would appreciate somebody within the parish coming and just being a friend.”

The team also offers respite, relief, and support to family caregivers so they may rest and relax.

Catholic Charities Madison partners with the team to provide training and on-going consultation.

Getting involved

Nellis said she comes “from a long line of volunteers in my family,” and saw a need to get involved in the care team ministry as her own parents eventually needed respite care and realized some people don’t have anyone to come and check on them.

Her husband, Bob, got involved with the ministry first, and she soon followed.

One of her first partners was a wife suffering from dementia and nearing death.

National Volunteer Week
April 10 to 16
Catholic Charities Madison uses more than 1,000 volunteers in its programs to carry out its mission of providing compassionate, caring service to help those in need.
One of those volunteers is Mary Nellis, a member of the Parish Care Team through St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Madison.

Her husband “just needed a little bit of time to go out and get something to eat, walk around a little bit, whatever.”

Nellis would sit with the woman, say the Rosary out loud, touch her hand, and just be near her.

“I felt I was being present to a person who was making her journey and it was a comfort to him to trust that somebody would be with her while he took a few moments outside,” Nellis said. “Sometimes the visit can be silent and it’s still something worthwhile.”

She added, “The kind of care thing we’re talking about has more depth than just doing activities. It’s not just doing an activity — it’s having a personal relationship with the person and a bond with them.”

Team leader

Her current role on the team is to visit with people referred to her either by the parish or by Catholic Charities.

Nellis said those initial visits are to help explain what the care team does, answer questions, and help them feel comfortable.

She said the partners sometimes struggle to accept the help. However, Nellis responds by telling them that maybe they cared for others in the past and “now you have to accept that we want to support you.”

She emphasized the confidentiality of the mission saying, “We are not going to talk about you. We never use the last names of our partners.”

After assessing the future partner’s needs and personality, she matches them up with a member of the care team. Nellis then introduces the care team member with his or her new partner.

“It’s not just doing a job,” she said, “It’s actually forming a relationship with people.”

A partner or caregiver calls team members when they are needed, or they can make weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly arrangements. Team members typically spend about two hours with their partners per visit.

Be a part of the team

Catholic Charities assists with oversight, as well as training the new team members, who go through three hours of initial training.

Fellow team members support each other as well. Every other month, they get together for spiritual renewal, sharing, and education.

Nellis said most of the partners are people with disabilities and seniors.

She added that people of all ages are welcome to be care team members, but that it is a great idea for retired people.

“You do need to be revitalized” as a senior, Nellis said. “To do nothing is kind of a waste . . . this gives you a feeling of being worthwhile. You’re really contributing tremendously when you’re doing volunteer work like this.”

She said there are also mothers with young children and young couples who do their part on the care team as well.

The experience for her and the whole team is rewarding.

“It’s worth my time,” Nellis said.

For more information on Care Team Ministry, go to the Catholic Charities Madison website at and click on “Services.”

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