Arthur Bartlett.
Arthur Bartlett.

Arthur Bartlett wanted to stay busy in his retirement. 

So he began searching for things to do, for both himself and fellow Christians. First, he became a volunteer cook at St. Patrick’s Soup Kitchen before stumbling on an ad for spiritual care at Albany Memorial Hospital.

It has become his calling for the last 27 years.

“I went there and I’ve been here ever since,” said Bartlett, who distributes Communion at the hospital as a Eucharistic Minister. “I love it.”

Bartlett, 89, also serves as an Extraordinary Minister at the Parish of Mater Christi in Albany, driving to the homes of people too sick to attend Church.

Clearly his retirement plans are far from fruitless. Bartlett says he enjoys both of his jobs, but has a stronger personal experience when serving someone from his parish.

“We have one lady, she moved up to Greenwich, and she calls us all the time. You develop a personal experience with them,” Bartlett said. “The worst part, most of them I had are dead now. But you know, it’s just a part of life.”

Bartlett’s job at Albany Memorial proved to be more challenging as he visits patients of all faiths and backgrounds.

“I had an atheist and when I went in to see her she said ‘What are you Christianizing me for, I’m an atheist!’ and I said, ‘I can come in and say hello, can’t I?’ And I talked to her for probably 10 minutes.” Bartlett said, chuckling. “I mean, every day is a different experience. Some people say, ‘Don’t bother me.’ You just don’t know until you get in the room.”

Unless you consult Chaplain Shafi Thomas, head of the Spiritual Ministry volunteer program at Albany Memorial, Bartlett says.

“He knows every patient individually. It makes it so much easier when you go into one of those rooms. You’re prepared for that individual,” Bartlett said.

The two often discuss the Bible together, reflecting on Scripture “to see what it means to all of us,” Thomas said.

Aside from having a vast interest in learning the Bible, Bartlett brings a tenacity to the job.

“He is a very dedicated volunteer,” Thomas said, “He comes every Wednesday. If he doesn’t see a patient when he’s there, he makes a good effort and does his best to see them before he leaves.”

Bartlett says his presence serves as a simple reminder to people that they are not alone.

“They’re so glad you came to talk to them. Just holding their hands even, you can just see their appreciation on their face,” Bartlett said. “Their facial expressions; you can see they appreciate how you didn’t just walk in and out on them.”

Regardless of the obstacles thrown his way, Bartlett describes his experience as extraordinarily rewarding, adding “You wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t, as long as I’ve done it, you know.”

Bartlett, in particular, speaks to a connection between himself, the Eucharist and the person he’s serving.

“The reverence in some of the people that you visit … Especially someone when you give Communion to them, you see them smile.”

When reflecting on what volunteering has done for him, Bartlett says, aside from getting out of the house, it has ultimately made his own spiritual life “a lot more meaningful.”