Nurses at St. Theresa create ministry to check on parishioners

Nurses at St. Theresa the Little Flower Church in Summerville reach out to parishioners. (Provided)

SUMMERVILLE—Janet Massa vividly remembers the last women’s guild meeting that she attended in person at St. Theresa the Little Flower Church, back in March. 

It was then that Msgr. Edward D. Lofton made an appearance to announce that the church would likely be going into lockdown very soon. 

Massa, a semi-retired nurse from a family medicine office at the Charleston Air Force Base, quickly offered her help.

“I told him that if he needed a nurse to do anything that I would be there for him and he told me to be ready because he would definitely be in touch,” she said. 

And he was. Shortly after, Msgr. Lofton contacted Massa about an idea he had. He knew that many of his parishioners were probably feeling scared, confused and alone — especially because they no longer had their church to attend. 

“He asked me to get a group of nurses together from the parish to contact different members of the church and support them through the pandemic,” she said. “He wanted us to ask them how they were coping and to answer any questions they had.”

Massa also asked the parishioners if they needed anything,  and if they did, Msgr. Lofton helped supply it. 

Parishioners filled out a form on the church website and a nurse from the Parish Connection Check-in group, as it was dubbed, would reach out. 

Massa said they made contact weekly via email, phone calls, and texting from the end of March through early July. 

The Parish Connection Check-in group consisted of about four nurses in the parish who kept in touch with over a half dozen church members who signed up for the program. 

Massa said the group is currently on hold since so much has reopened,  including the church, but the program has no plans to dissipate. 

“We could do this during a hurricane or even during the holidays,” she said. 

Before the pandemic, Massa was involved in the parish health ministry and offered free blood pressure checks after Mass. 

Phyllis Stabley, a 20-year parishioner of St. Theresa the Little Flower, said she was particularly interested in the program because her husband, Steve, had triple bypass surgery on March 13. 

“I was so nervous because he was trying to recover from this surgery when we had to go into quarantine for three months,” Stabley explained. “This program helped us because at least we knew our church was there for us.”

Stabley said that Massa helped her understand some of the doctors’ instructions on how to care for her husband during that time. 

“She helped me comprehend it all better. It meant the world to me,” she said.

“I think it was nice for them to just hear our voice,” Massa said. “But, to be honest, this program has been as necessary for me as it has been for them.”