There's a shortage of Catholic priests these days, and that means that dying Catholics need to plan ahead if they want to get last rites. "Try to anticipate. Look at your last days instead of your last hour," one hospice minister tells USA Today, adding that sometimes it can take a couple days before a priest can be found—which, in some cases, means the patient dies without being anointed. He recalls one incident when hospice struggled to find a priest for a dying patient; eventually, the bishop himself came out to perform the sacrament.
Gone are the days when priests could make deathbed calls with little notice, says another reverend. Now, the church is "more generous with giving the last rites. There's a change in thinking. It's not like in the Bing Crosby movies where you waited until the last minute." In fact, a retired bishop urges Catholics who want last rites—officially knows as the anointing of the sick—to simply take the sacrament whenever they are ill, pregnant, or in the hospital. "It's not just a sacrament for the dying," he says. "It's for the sick and the recovering."