By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
MUSCATINE — During a routine sports physical in August, Muscatine High School senior Taustin Kaste mentioned that he felt chest pains while exercising. That comment led to a battery of medical tests over the next month, a diagnosis of a rare heart condition, and a powerful experience of sacrament and prayer.
Taustin has a condition called anomalous right coronary. “His is called malignant. It can cause sudden death in athletes. If they do find it, it’s by chance,” Taustin’s mother, Lisa, said. Doctors recommended open-heart surgery. His parents wanted a second opinion before making such a critical decision and chose Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
As Taustin awaited open heart surgery, Lisa turned to their parish for a spiritual boost. The family belongs to Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine where Lisa leads the middle school youth group. She called Sister Cheryl Demmer, PBVM, the parish’s religious education director, asking if Taustin could receive the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.
“My parents were the ones that suggested it,” Lisa said. “I have a brother who has had multiple surgeries and who has received the anointing of the sick. I felt it was important, also.”
Sr. Cheryl thought it was important, too. “I said, ‘Lisa, what if we had him anointed during confirmation class so the kids could be there to see that the sacrament is available to everyone.’”
Mother and son consented, but Taustin wasn’t sure he needed to be anointed. He’d been present when his very ill great-grandmother received the anointing of the sick a year earlier. “I thought the sacrament was for someone who was really ill and has a chance of passing away. I didn’t feel I had a chance of passing away,” he said.
On Oct. 8, just days before his scheduled heart surgery, Taustin received the anointing of the sick in the presence of his parish’s ninth- and 10th-grade confirmation students. But others he hadn’t expected to see were there, too, including 20 members of his cross-country team and their coach.
Beforehand, Sr. Cheryl taught the students about the sacrament, and shared a personal experience from some 50 years ago. “My grandfather said to me, ‘I’m going to get Father to come to anoint your dad.’ … That was Grandpa’s way of telling me Dad was going to die,” Sr. Cheryl said. Back then, the sacrament was called Extreme Unction, and it was administered to the dying. Today the Church teaches that “Each time a Christian falls seriously ill, he may receive the Anointing of the Sick, and also when, after he has received it, the illness worsens” (Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1529).
For those near death, the Church offers the Eucharist as viaticum in addition to the anointing of the sick.
“We talked about the graces that come with the sacrament,” Sr. Cheryl said. “I told the kids, ‘you will see Fr. Bob (Cloos) pray over Taustin, praying for God’ healing.’” She said the priest would invite others to come and pray over Taustin, too.
Altogether, about 87 students were present. They were surprised to see parishioner Chris Foxen, coach of the high school boys cross-country team, and 20 team members enter the room.
Athletic trainer Nicole Calvert, also a parishioner, had informed Chris of the anointing before practice that day. “I being Catholic and she being Catholic, we knew the importance of that (sacrament).” He told the team, “There’s an important religious service for Taustin … it’s going to mean a lot to Taustin. If you’re free at that time, you need to be there. It’s going to be neat. I think God will be glad for you to be there.” Chris said Taustin is an “unusually selfless young man … The kids see how much Taustin gives of himself.”
Friends of Taustin’s parents Travis and Lisa also invited people to attend the anointing service. “We had probably 120 people. It was really powerful,” Sr. Cheryl said. Fr. Bob, the parish’s parochial vicar, explained what was going to happen. Then he anointed Taustin with oil and prayed over him. Taustin’s parents and two of his three sisters approached him and laid hands on him. Slowly, other adults and then youths approached and laid hands on him.
Taustin felt uncomfortable with the attention. But after Fr. Bob anointed him and everyone prayed over him, he felt good. Later that night, he conveyed his thoughts via social media: “Speechless, kind of speechless. I really think I’m fine. But honestly, what happened tonight meant a lot, and I appreciate the support. You are all family.”
The following week, Taustin and his parents traveled to Mayo Clinic. Back in Muscatine, Sr. Cheryl prepared the sixth- through 10th-graders to pray the rosary for Taustin and for the success of his surgery. Then she received word that Taustin didn’t need surgery. “Instead of praying for successful surgery, we prayed in thanksgiving, and for healing for those in the parish who were very sick,” she said.
Doctors at Mayo Clinic believe they can monitor Taustin’s condition without surgical intervention, his mother said. That is an answer to prayer for Taustin and his family.
Receiving the anointing of the sick, along with the prayers of so many, has strengthened his already strong faith, Taustin said. “I knew he (God) was with me.” This experience was like a reminder that “he’s still with me.”
120 witness anointing
MUSCATINE — Muscatine High School senior Taustin Kaste returned to his parish’s religious education center Oct. 29 to thank confirmation students who prayed over him after he received the anointing of the sick last month. Taustin learned days after receiving the sacrament that he wouldn’t need heart surgery. “It meant a lot to me, the prayers,” he told the 10th-grade confirmation students in the Mazzuchelli Center.
Some of the confirmation students and their adult leaders shared their impression of witnessing Taustin receive the sacrament:
“You could feel God’s presence watching over him,” student Emma Johanns said. She thinks part of the reason Taustin didn’t need surgery was because of the prayers.
“I think it was cool that some of his non-Catholic friends came to support him,” said student David Cardoza.
“I was anointed before my C-section,” said adult table leader Erin Ronzheimer. “To know that (the sacrament) is powerful for younger people, that’s special.”
“There was a sense of love and caring in the room,” teacher Debbie Dunsmore said. “Just that sense of belonging to the Church, and these sacraments.”