'Dial-A-Priest' offers end-of-life prayers to hospital patients

Posted at 3:12 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 18:34:00-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Having your prayers answered can be as simple as picking up the phone.

Across the country, priests and deacons of the Episcopal Church are offering ministry over the phone.

The program Dial-A-Priest has been created by TryTank Experimental Lab in partnership with Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) and General Theological Seminary (GTS).

It's overseen by the director of TryTank, Reverend Lorenzo Lebrija. He says the name Dial-A-Priest isn't to make light of the situation, but to directly explain what the program is.

"One phone number rings 100 people at the same time, and whoever is able to pick up the phone at that moment - that's how we take care of the calls," he tells News 3.

As hospitals are overrun with coronavirus patients, gaining access to those individuals has become a lot harder. Yet, having the ability to reach a clergy member on the other end of the phone helps people feel less alone in their darkest hour. A priest is then able to recite the Ministration at the Time of Death to a patient.

"In theory, our goal is no one has to die alone. We will be there with you and we'll walk with you, even if it's a virtual hand-in-hand," Lebrija says.

Volunteers have to apply online and be available for two hours each day. All are vetted, retired priests in good standing with the Episcopal Church.

"They are seasoned, they have seen in their 40 years of ministry, they have seen things that prepare them for something like this," he says.

Father Lebrija hopes that within the next week or so they'll also be able to offer the prayer in Spanish.

"Even though we are physically separated and even though we may be thousands of miles apart because of it being over the phone - [this emphasizes] that together we are one people."

The hope is that a short phone call to 213-423-3600 can make things just a little easier for everyone.

"We will offer prayers to anyone who needs them and wants them," Lebrija says.

For more information and to fill out a volunteer application, click here.

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