Bishop: Risen Savior offers hope that cancer will not have the final word

After the Spirit of Hope Mass for Cancer on Oct. 1 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, Bishop Louis Tylka poses for a photo with (from left) Sisters Theresa Ann Brazeau, Judith Ann Duvall, Faustina Chesnut, Rose Therese Mann, Teresa Paul Selamat and M. Angelita Van Hoey of The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis; tenor John McDermott and Dr. James McGee. The Mass was sponsored by OSF HealthCare. ( The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“You have cancer.”

It can be a faith-shattering diagnosis, said Bishop Louis Tylka, who knows that from personal experience. He has heard it twice — once for his mother, Norma, 30 years ago, and again for his sister, Mary Lou Bryant, just over two years ago.

Deacon Joe Knapp, manager of pastoral care at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, proclaims the Gospel at the Spirit of Hope Mass for Cancer on Oct. 1. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Cancer doesn’t get the final word, however, he said at the Spirit of Hope Mass for Cancer, celebrated Oct. 1 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.

“It gives us a different perspective knowing the Lord. Because we know suffering and death is not an end when we look to Jesus,” Bishop Tylka said.

“And so we have hope — hope in the resurrection. We have hope that the Lord lives and walks with us,” he explained.

The Mass “for the relief from the burden of cancer” is sponsored by OSF HealthCare. Held for the first time last October, it grew out of a conversation between Bishop Tylka and Dr. James McGee, medical director of radiation oncology for OSF HealthCare.

Adding to the gentle, healing tone of the Mass was inspirational music performed by world-renowned tenor and recording artist John McDermott. He also offered “Panis Angelicus” as a Communion meditation.

A GRACED MOMENT

During his homily, Bishop Tylka shared an encounter he had with Bishop Raul Dael of Tandag in the Philippines. They were attending the annual formation course for new bishops and during one session Bishop Raul said he learned he had cancer shortly after being ordained a bishop in 2018.

“What he said was his experience of having cancer was his greatest experience of God’s embrace in his life,” Bishop Tylka said, noting that he wasn’t sure he could have said the same thing.

“It is in our faith that we find our hope and our true hope can only be in our Savior, Jesus Christ. When we turn to the Lord and allow him to embrace us, it is there and then that we truly know the power of God’s grace in our life.” — Bishop Louis Tylka

But the experience taught Bishop Raul how close the Lord and other people were to him, even during his treatment and the pandemic.

“He learned to offer his suffering to the Lord and he realized more how much the Lord had suffered for him, and he found the faith and the trust that whatever God had planned he could accept and he was ready to accept,” Bishop Tylka recalled. “It was a graced moment to hear him speak of that.”

Not everyone can say that because we’re all in different places on the journey, according to Bishop Tylka. But when we tap into our faith and recognize we are not alone because Jesus is with us, perhaps we can adopt the same perspective.

“For it is in our faith that we find our hope and our true hope can only be in our Savior, Jesus Christ. When we turn to the Lord and allow him to embrace us, it is there and then that we truly know the power of God’s grace in our life,” the bishop said.

Each Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral concludes with everyone chanting the “Ave Maria.” Before they could do so on this night, Bishop Tylka invited the assembly to join him in praying for those who have been touched by cancer and their caregivers, and to entrust them to Mary, “who lovingly keeps them in her heart and brings all hearts to Jesus.”

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