Lessons of faith prescribed at diocesan health care event

Photo Caption: Deacon David Steeples, pastoral care director at OSF St. Mary Medical Center, Galesburg, and Deacon George Wagner, pastoral care director at OSF Saint James John W. Albrecht Medical Center, Pontiac.

By: By Jennifer Willems

Even after 2,000 years the ministry of Jesus still has much to teach health care providers about caring for people who are sick and suffering, and Msgr. Jason Gray shared several lessons from the Divine Physician during the annual Diocesan Health Care Conference.

Among them is the recognition that those who are sick are carrying a cross and only by embracing that cross as Jesus did can people truly live –even if it means letting go of this world.

“One thing physicians always try to do is save life. But there is also that moment when it is that person’s time to go home to the Lord,” said Msgr. Gray, who holds degrees in biblical theology and canon law and is pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Peoria.

“That is determined by God’s wisdom. It is entirely in the hands of God,” he told the 60 participants gathered at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria on Oct. 18. “When that time comes it’s not something for us to be afraid of.”

Jesus took a comprehensive approach to caring for people, attending to their spiritual and mental health as well as their physical ailments, and Msgr. Gray said health care providers must keep this in mind.

“To be able to encourage people to have that kind of profound, spiritual approach, even to one’s death, is really a tremendous thing,” he said. “It can, actually, be a moment of tremendous faith.”

In order to have that perspective, those involved in health care must attend to their own spiritual health, taking time for sabbath rest and prayer as Jesus did, Msgr. Gray said.

Acknowledging that people don’t get sick just six days a week, he encouraged them to look for ways to balance their work and the need to praise God, go to Mass and have time for personal renewal.

“These are actually really difficult things. When you get into the details of life and say how do I balance all of my duties, I think this is where the rubber meets the road,” Msgr. Gray said. “But the challenge is presented to us and we ask for Jesus’ help.”

While health care comes at a cost and hospitals must keep an eye on the bottom line in order to continue their healing ministry, he asked those present not to lose sight of the poor and vulnerable.

Sponsored by the Diocesan Health Care Committee with assistance from the Office of Family Life, the day included a White Mass with Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, as the presider and homilist. Concelebrating with him were Msgr. Michael Bliss, chaplain and director of pastoral care at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, and Father Michael Driscoll, assistant chaplain there.

Noting that the Catholic Church has had some difficult days as church teaching has clashed with public policy and state laws, such as in the case of Catholic Charities and licensing regulations regarding foster care and adoption services, Bishop Jenky said more trouble may be ahead as some legislators look to taxing Catholic health care institutions in Cook County.

He urged them to hang on to Jesus’ mandate when he sent his disciples forth to cure the sick and tell them “the kingdom of God is at hand.”

“(Gov.) Patrick Quinn may think there is no difference between a Catholic hospital and a private hospital or a state institution, but the truth is that’s the difference. All our institutions — our hospitals, our ministries, the new Catholic Charities, our schools and all our parishes — we come bearing Christ,” Bishop Jenky said.

“When it comes to the sick, that is the qualitative difference. We bring to them all of the skill of your physicians and your staff and all the good people of your institutions, but like those first 72 disciples we carry our Lord,” the bishop told them.

“He is God incarnate. He is the savior of the world. He is our greatest treasure. And he is our reason for existence,” Bishop Jenky said.

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
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