Father Tom Macdonald, vice-rector of St. John's Seminary volunteers to administer the anointing of the sick to COVID-19 patients

April 28, 2020

Saint John’s Seminary is proud to announce that the Boston Archdiocesan team of Priests who have been asked to minister to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic is led by our Vice-Rector, Father Tom Macdonald. This team, assembled at the request of Cardinal Sean O’Malley, is sequestered in a Seminary owned building in the Brighton area, convenient to Boston’s major hospitals, which allows them to quickly provide the Sacrament of the Sick.

The team of priests feel a great blessing and sense of pride in being able to serve in this way, "This is what priests do...it's an enormous privilege," Father Macdonald recently told the Catholic News Agency (CNA). This ministry provides not only comfort for those being treated and their families but the hospital staff as well.

Father Macdonald has been called to anoint several COVID-19 patients already, and each time the hospital staff has assisted him in donning and removing the necessary protective gear according to hospital protocols. Telling CNA, “all the priests have been trained to minimize time spent in the patient's room, the priest prays most of the ritual on the doorstep.”

The priest then enters the room to perform the actual anointing, which is done with a cotton swab, dipped in the holy oil, and administered on the patient's foot. Father Macdonald said he and his fellow priests are always "sharing notes" on their experiences at the hospitals since each institution has slightly different protocols and equipment. "It's very hard being a priest and not being able to celebrate the sacraments for the people, so this opportunity is a great relief in a sense— to do what we were ordained to do," he said.

"We can't save everyone— medicine can only do so much. To some degree, we have to recognize that we're not the masters of our own fate, and we have to put it in God's hands," Father Michael Zimmerman, assistant vocation director for the seminary and another priest volunteer, told CNA. "The medical staff is doing great work, but we also have to recognize that they can't do everything and that hopefully takes some pressure off of them, recognizing that this is in God's hands."

Please check the full CNA's story here