BRIDGEPORT—“Jesus fulfills his ongoing presence on earth through our lives, our crosses, our hands,” said Fr. Peter Le Jacq, to area hospital and healthcare professionals at the 27th Annual Mass for Catholic Healthcare Workers at St. Augustine Cathedral.
Fr. Le Jacq M.D., a physician and Maryknoll priest who was the special consultant to Pope John Paul II on AIDS in East Africa, told healthcare workers that suffering is unavoidable in our lives and that Jesus himself experienced anxiety and suffering “through his arrest, torture and crucifixion.”
More than 100 physicians, nurses and other health workers turned out for the annual Mass and brunch that followed at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield.
In his reflection on the vocation of healthcare, Fr. Le Jacq said that we may not always understand suffering, but it has redemptive value when offered in union with Jesus’ own suffering on the Cross.
“As healthcare workers we feel the full human pain of our crosses, but there is a resurrection in every cross,” he said, adding that the unavoidable suffering in our own lives will lead to good, just as the suffering of Jesus led to our salvation.
He pointed out that many physicians and healthcare workers themselves “have been and will be on the receiving end of caring for the sick.”
“Sickness and crosses in our own life can be a great help in serving the sick,” he said, “There is a connection between the crosses of all those who suffer.”
Fr. Le Jacq, who graduated from Cornell University Medical College and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Ireland and served as a physician in Tanzania and as a professor at Bugando Medical Center, said that people come to healthcare careers for many reasons, but “the perfect motivation is when we serve Jesus Christ in those who are suffering.”
Throughout his talk he referred to scriptural passages that offer support and perspective on the vocation of healing, and he urged healthcare workers to be open to the great surprise of the experience of God’s unlimited love in their lives.
Referring to Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, Fr. Le Jacq said that God works with those who are “available” and gives them the opportunity to be his presence on earth. Just at the Shepherds were the first to hear Christ was born because they were vigilant watching their sheep, healthcare workers are “on call” to recognize and serve Christ in the sick.
Photos by Amy Mortensen
Fr. Le Jacq said that healthcare workers can find a model of now to support and care for one another as professionals in the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth. When Elizabeth was pregnant, Mary went to her and provided understanding and support.
“The Lord accompanies us every moment in our lives of faith and service in the experience of caring for the sick. The Lord will help those with vocations fulfill their healing mission,” he said, encouraging healthcare workers to always “listen to and ponder” the voice of those who are suffering.
The morning began with the Catholic Healthcare Workers Mass, also known at the White Mass, with Bishop Frank J. Caggiano as the principal celebrant joined by priest chaplains in from area healthcare institutions.
“We gather today to pray for healthcare worker involved in the ministry of healing, and we ask the Lord to continue blessing your ministry, your courage and perseverance in a time of stress and discouragement as you are doing the work of Christ every day,” the Bishop said as he welcomed those in attendance.
In his homily the Bishop reflected on the gospel account of the Samaritan woman who Jesus speaks to at the well. He said that seen through the eyes of the people at that time, “the Samaritan woman had three strikes against her,” because she was part of an outcast group, had been married five times, and had no social status as a woman.
While others gave up on her or scorned her, Jesus did not. “No one but Jesus knew that she sought healing from the slavery of her own sinful choices,” the Bishop said, noting that Jesus brought waters of “hope, mercy, love and forgiveness of heart.”
He praised healthcare workers for standing by those who are suffering, because in doing so, they “take the place of Christ at the well and bring healing.”
“Our vocation in baptism is to be ambassadors of Christ, and bring healing to those society considers to have struck out. Thank you for being ambassadors in your mission of healthcare. Christ lives in you,” he said.
As he directly addressed healthcare workers from the center of the altar, the Bishop acknowledged that it has not been an easy year for them given the stress of the Covid crisis and said he hopes that the newly formed St. Luke’s Guild will be a source of strength and spiritual growth.
“The time has come for the Church to be of great service to you, work with you and support your ministry of healing,” he said.
The bishop also spoke briefly at the end of the brunch that followed Mass. He thanked Dr. and Mrs. William and Mary Beth Fessler who served as chair couple, and he presented special recognition awards to Dr. Thomas Flynn, Hope Carter, and William F. Stephanak, D.D.S. , who guided the White Mass Breakfast in the diocese for over 25 years. (Monsignor William Scheyd accepted the award on behalf of Dr. Stephanak, who was unable to attend the breakfast.)
“With the St. Luke’s Guild we are beginning a new generation that is built on the work that you did and the leadership and vision you provided,” the bishop said. He said the Guild will help healthcare workers to share their experience of faith in the face of the many “moral and ethical dilemmas” they will face.
The new St. Luke’s Guild will be formally inaugurated in a Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral on October 15 at 10 a.m. (For further information contact the Special Events Office at: 203.416.1670 or email Pat Hansen at: email@example.com.)
Saint Luke Guild Prayer
Loving God, you created us with the capacity to heal,
to restore and to offer peace, hope and love,
through our role in Catholic health care ministry.
Help us to be visible signs of compassion in the world today
— honoring every person we meet who is in need of healing.
When our burdens are heavy, renew us,
and remind us of the blessings
as well as the privilege of our calling.
Reawaken our commitment to the healing ministry
of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.