“Time spent with the sick is holy time. It is a way of praising God who conforms us to the image of his Son, who ‘came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” ~ Pope Francis’ Message for the 23rd World Day of the Sick, 2015
Established by St. John Paul II and first celebrated in 1993, the World Day of the Sick calls the faithful to pray in a special way for those suffering from illness, and for their families and caregivers. The day is observed on Feb. 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, whose grotto countless pilgrims visit in the hopes of receiving spiritual and physical healing.
On this year’s observation of World Day of the Sick, Bishop Ronald Gainer visited the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, where he celebrated Mass in the hospital’s Interfaith Chapel and then visited several patients to talk with them, anoint them, and present them with a rosary and the Divine Mercy image of Jesus.
“When we are afflicted with illness, when we have to leave our normal routines and responsibilities and enter into that time of struggle with illness, we begin to question the very meaning of life,” the bishop remarked in his homily during Mass.
“We ask a lot of ‘Why’s?’ and ‘How come’s?’ that we might have never asked before. At that point, it’s important for us to remember the saving work of Christ,” he said. “He could have saved us in any possible number of ways, but he chose to enter into the thing that often plagues us, stretches us the most, and that is the mystery of human suffering. He enters into that, and uses it to be a means of our salvation. Whenever we accept the cross of suffering in union with Christ, it has new meaning. It has a new significance.”
Hospital staff, patients, family members and those who minister there in pastoral care filled the chapel for the Mass, which was concelebrated by Dominican Father Pius Michael Tukura, the hospital’s Catholic chaplain.
In his homily, Bishop Gainer also remembered in a special way “all of those who have said yes to the vocation to care for the sick,” including those who serve in health care facilities, and those who care for the sick among their families, friends and parish communities.
“Visiting the sick, ministering to them, taking care of those who are ill in any way is a holy time because the face of Christ is there in that person who suffers infirmity,” he said.
Spiritual care offered for the Catholic patients at the Hershey Medical Center includes Holy Communion, visits from Father Pius, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, anointing of the sick, and the Sacrament of Baptism for infants and last rites for those approaching death.
Ida Gorman, Catholic Patient Care Coordinator, synchronizes a group of 32 Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion who volunteer to bring the Eucharist to Catholic patients, who typically vary in number from 15-30 each day.
Ms. Gorman routinely visits patients to inquire about spiritual services that they or their family members might like to receive.
“In this ministry, I see people who are in physical and emotional duress, so spiritual care is critical,” she told The Catholic Witness.
“The support that Father Pius gives the patients is tremendous,” Ms. Gorman said. “There is a joy in their eyes when he steps into their room. They have a sense of peace when he gives the Eucharist to them. Even with patients who are not conscious, you can see them move their mouths in prayer as he prays the Our Father with them.”
Father Pius and Ms. Gorman escorted Bishop Gainer through the hospital facility, where he made palpable connections with several patients and their families during extended visits, including the main hospital floors, the intensive care unit, and Children’s Hospital.
Some of the patients with whom the bishop met had a positive prognosis, while others will continue to carry their cross like Christ. In all instances, they were bolstered by the visit from Bishop Gainer and Father Pius, and strengthened in their faith and their walk with Christ.
“Our faith is real, and something that we walk with daily, regardless of our struggles,” Ms. Gorman remarked.
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness
Source Link: http://www.hbgdiocese.org/2015/02/26/bishop-gainer-brings-christs-love-to-hospital-patients/
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