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Bishop Deeley Marks World Day of the Sick with Mass at Saint André Health Care in Biddeford

Community Author: Dave Guthro, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland
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BIDDEFORD—In commemoration of the World Day of the Sick, Bishop Robert P. Deeley celebrated a Mass of the Anointing of the Sick at Saint André Health Care in Biddeford, on Sunday, Feb. 11, asking God to “ease the sufferings and comfort the weakness” of those gathered.

“What a wonderful celebration this is and what a wonderful opportunity to renew ourselves in the love of God and to show God’s care for the sick by these sacraments of healing, sacraments of love, sacraments of care,” Bishop Deeley said.

The sacrament of the anointing of the sick is one of the ways in which the Church carries on the healing ministry of Christ. The sacrament may be administered to anyone suffering from serious or chronic illness, facing surgery, or weakened by advancing age. Through the sacrament, those anointed receive gifts of strength, faith, peace and courage. The sacrament also unites their struggles with the passion and death of Christ.

“The healing of today is not necessarily a healing of illnesses that beset us, that bother us, that slow us down, but a healing of our hearts and a reminder that, in our difficulties, God is with us. Jesus walks with us,” the bishop said. “We see that in the people who care for us, in the people who extend themselves to make it possible for us to be comfortable, to be cared for, to be fed and clothed. And in all of that, God’s love is manifested and shown forth.”

During the Mass at Saint André, Bishop Deeley and Monsignor Andrew Dubois, moderator of the curia and vicar general for the diocese, walked among the sick and elderly present, laying hands on each of them. They then anointed the foreheads and hands of those present, praying “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

“It meant an awful lot to me. I had never been touched by a bishop since I made by first Communion and confirmation,” said Jackie Sanville, a resident of Saint André.

“I appreciate it very much. It’s very good,” agreed Bea Villandry, another resident.

“It’s so important for the bishop to be here anointing our elderly, who are so frail in so many ways,” said Steve Alaimo, CEO/Administrator of Saint André.

Prayers were offered during the Mass both for those who are sick and for their caregivers. The bishop and the congregation joined in asking the Lord to “relieve the pain of all who are aged, ailing and alone” to “sustain with your power all who are sick, suffering, and struggling,” and to “assist all whose vocation is to care for the ill, the elderly, and the infirm.”

In his homily, the bishop stressed that everyone has a role to play in caring for the sick.

“We have a responsibility to each other no matter who we are and what our condition in life is. Perhaps, there is no way in which we can care for each other, because we have enough difficulty caring for ourselves, but we can pray for each other. We can speak a kind word to each other. We can bring the Gospel to life in our concern for each other.  And by so doing, we carry on the message of the Gospel and the life of Jesus. In this celebration of the World Day of the Sick, we remind ourselves that the sick are part of the Church, and so, we care for them. But, we also remind ourselves that insofar as the sick are part of the Church, they, too, have a part to play in the carrying on of the Gospel and the living out of the message of Jesus.”

The World Day of the Sick, which is Feb. 11, was introduced by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1992, who called upon the faithful to pray and reflect on those who are sick and struggling. The day coincides with Catholic Church’s celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. On Feb. 11, 1858, the Blessed Mother first appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France, which has now become a place of pilgrimage and healing.

Approximately 75 residents, family members, and health-care workers gathered for the Mass at Saint André, which is a 96-bed residence offering rehabilitation and skilled medical care, short-term respite care, long-term nursing care, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, and palliative and hospice care. It is a member of Covenant Health.

“Healthcare, the ability to be in this beautiful place, is a gift from God,” the bishop said. “Celebrating the World Day of the Sick reminds us that having this facility is a living out of the message of the Gospel.”