Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Observing World Day of the Sick, Bishop Senior Visits Patients and Celebrates Mass at Geisinger Medical Center

Anna, an elderly patient at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, eagerly sat up and smiled when the door to her hospital room opened earlier this week and she saw Bishop Timothy Senior standing there.

In observance of the World Day of the Sick, the bishop made a visit to the hospital on Monday, February 12, where he blessed and anointed several patients – including Anna – and celebrated Holy Mass for more than a hundred hospital staff and volunteers.

A devout Catholic who is known for her reliable ministry of sending cards and letters to seminarians, Anna was eager to meet the bishop as he made his pastoral outreach.

“This is definitely a highlight for her,” Anna’s daughter said as her mother spoke quietly with the bishop. “She’s been waiting for this ever since the staff mentioned that he would be here to see her today.”

The bishop’s encounters with patients – underscored by compassionate conversation, prayer and the Anointing of the Sick – brought to light the purpose of the Church’s observation of World Day of the Sick.

Established by Pope St. John Paul II in 1992, World Day of the Sick is observed on February 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, which commemorates the Blessed Mother’s appearances to the young, impoverished and uneducated Bernadette in Lourdes, France, in 1858. During one of those 18 apparitions, Mary told Bernadette that the faithful must continue to pray for the conversion of sinners, and that we can be co-redeemers with Christ if we unite our suffering to His.

The Holy Father, in establishing the observance, called it “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering for the good of the Church and of reminding everyone to see in his sick brother or sister the face of Christ who, by suffering, dying and rising, achieved the salvation of mankind.”

In Solidarity with the Sick

“A lot of people tend to want to avoid the sick. That’s one of the reasons Pope John Paul II wanted to highlight the need to visit the sick and be in solidarity with those who are ill,” Bishop Senior said in his homily during the celebration of Holy Mass after his visit with patients.

The Mass was at the Henry Hood Center for Health Research, located next to the hospital. A dozen priests concelebrated the liturgy, including Father Thomas Ayepa, OP, Manager of Spiritual Care, and Fathers Valentine Anyanwu, OP, and Charles Ocul, OP, chaplains.

“We often don’t want to think about illness; we want to turn our minds from it because we’re afraid of it. That’s understandable in our human nature, but you who are in contact with those who are ill, you don’t turn from them, and that’s immeasurably important to them and their families,” the bishop told the congregation of hospital staff, healthcare professionals, caregivers and volunteers.

“When we approach suffering and struggles – whether they be physical, emotional or spiritual – somehow God is working in that. We believe that the crucified Lord has brought eternal life to those that believe in Him. We know that is something that we all share in – we are with Him in His suffering, death and resurrection. We find meaning, even in the midst of suffering, because of that closeness to Jesus,” Bishop Senior remarked.

Remembering in a special way those receiving care in the hospital overlooking the Henry Hood Center, the bishop also prayed for those who work and volunteer in health care.

“We who accompany the sick – whether experiencing their struggle ourselves or accompanying them on the way – are there to encourage that gift of faith in those who are ill, to let that deepen, even in the midst of challenges,” he said.

Among those who were present for the bishop’s visit was Marty Lichtner, who volunteers at Geisinger Medical Center as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, bringing the Eucharist to Catholic patients and visiting with them every Saturday. He’s also a hospital courier who delivers flowers, gifts and cards.

Lichtner told The Catholic Witness that patients need spiritual care just like they need physical care. “A visit, Holy Communion, someone to listen – that makes a big difference and is meaningful for them,” he said.

“Today was a great day to celebrate the World Day for the Sick and to remember them,” said Lichtner, who served as lector for the Mass. “I was grateful for the Mass today, and to see the bishop visiting patients. It was a beautiful event, especially praying for the patients here in the hospital, and I was happy and blessed to be a part of it.”

Read Bishop Senior’s letter on the World Day of the Sick at this link.

(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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