In the weekly bulletin of St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in Pasadena, there’s a regular posting about the Ministry of the Sick.
As the mission statement explains, volunteers are needed to visit the sick who are homebound, in nursing homes, and in senior housing facilities.
Colleen Roohan is listed as the contact, with her a phone number and email.
“It’s amazing how the phone will ring sometimes several times a week and someone says, ‘Maybe you can help me …I need help getting through this” Colleen explained. “Often the calls are from people I don’t know. I like being asked to help them navigate through health, family and emotional issues.”
“It’s about making sure we are present both physically and spiritually in the Eucharist to those who are homebound or isolated. I feel very privileged to be asked to help. It has been a great way to know those in our parish and greater community. I believe the elderly, in particular, are a marginalized group and there is so much we can do in better meeting their needs.”
The Ministry of the Sick is an extension of Colleen’s career—she is a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner and currently works at Foothill Homecare Partners. Her passion for service began at a young age. Growing up in Santa Barbara, Colleen visited retirement homes with her sister in elementary school. She continued service through high school and at St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame and graduate school at CSULB.
The Roohan children – Eddie, Mary Kate, Joseph and Sheila, have all become involved in helping those in need, whether through their chosen occupation or service work.
“Watching our family grow into adults that see the need to serve their communities gives my husband Ed and I much joy. They have had a wonderful example in their father.”
Colleen and longtime friend Ann Sanders, both nurses, developed a Health Ministry after recognizing a need for educational wellness events, blood pressure clinics, flu shots and other screenings for parishioners at St. Philip the Apostle.
“Colleen has been a person of service for as long as I’ve known her – more than 25 years – finding a way to serve in unique and beautiful ways,” said Ann. “She is Christ reaching out to others. It’s been my privilege and honor to be her friend. She has a gift of looking at the needs of others and seeing ways to do something about it. I see a woman who has given so much to our parish, especially to the needs of elderly in her work.”
The Ministry of the Sick, running for over 15 years, has recently expanded to include a Senior Ministry, a space created for fellowship among seniors that would otherwise be home alone. Colleen recognizes the importance of meeting the needs of the elderly population.
In addition to serving her parish through these ministries, she has dedicated time to make ensure those facing the end of life and their families felt supported.
“I think the concept of no one having to be alone as they leave this earth is crucial…walking alongside those facing terminal illnesses and their families whether they are in their 90’s or even their 40’s.”
“It is an amazing and beautiful thing to share sacred space with someone and their family when there is love and care. There’s nothing quite like it. I leave at peace seeing how much healing has come to those who have really worked through some tough challenges and suffering.
As much as Colleen has given to geriatrics outreach, she has also been deeply involved as a Board Trustee for the Catholic Education Foundation since 2012.
CEF, established by Cardinal Roger Mahony in 1987, has funded hundreds of thousands of tuition scholarship awards for elementary and high school students living in underserved areas of Los Angeles who otherwise would not be able to attain a Catholic education.
Colleen and Ed were both educated in catholic schools through college. “The CEF story is an amazing one to tell” said Colleen. “I strongly believe that receiving a Catholic education is an advantage for life. Our job at CEF is to find ways to raise scholarship funds so that these children can get a solid academic and faith-based education. For many of these kids, that opportunity can truly be a game changer.”
She believes the real credit goes to the principals who fill the seats in their schools, and the dedicated, hard-working teachers who love and nurture their students. The graduation rate for high school students supported by CEF is 98% – an amazing achievement.
“If you look at our Catholic ideals, whether you’re helping someone in their last days of life on earth- or helping children in our underserved Catholic schools through CEF, you can find Jesus in everyone you work with. I hope to continue to serve.”