Father Mike Hall, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, left, and Father Gene Daguplo, pastor of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton, concelebrate the White Mass  in St. Gregory the Great Church. Joe Moore photo
Father Mike Hall, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, left, and Father Gene Daguplo, pastor of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton, concelebrate the White Mass in St. Gregory the Great Church. Joe Moore photo
For Catholics throughout the world, Feb. 11 was a dual commemoration of the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick, a day when all are asked to remember the infirm and those who care for them.

PHOTO GALLERY: World Day of the Sick Mass in St. Thomas More Church, Manalapan

PHOTO GALLERY: White Mass in St. Gregory the Great Church, Hamilton Square

Observances took place in St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, which hosted its first Mass that included the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, and St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, where Father Mike Hall, pastor, celebrated a White Mass for persons serving in the healthcare field.

With more than 400 people in attendance, joined by eight concelebrants who assisted with administering the Sacrament, “the Mass was amazing, it was very moving,” said Father Daniel Peirano, St. Thomas More pastor.

To prepare parishioners for the first-time Mass, Father Peirano spent a few weeks teaching his community about the Sacrament, explaining the two-part ritual that includes the prayers said by the priest and the anointing with the Oil of the Sick.

“Many people think it’s Last Rites, that it means the end,” Father Peirano said, “but that’s not what it is. It’s a Sacrament of healing” where, when celebrated as part of Mass, the Church comes together as a community and prays for God’s mercy and grace upon those who receive it.

Father Peirano noted that he encouraged parishioners who were age 75 and older to consider receiving the Sacrament, as well as those who may be facing surgery or dealing with chronic health concerns like cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes.

He invited them to “Come, to please come, and receive this great gift given to us by God,” Father Peirano said, noting that he specifically arranged for the Sacrament of the Sick to be administered after the reception of Holy Communion.

Parishioner Fortunata Guarino, who helped with organizing the Mass and was anointed, commented on the “cross-section” of people in attendance which ranged from newborn to nonagenarians. “All of us were there for the miracle of the Eucharist and to place ourselves in the hands of Our Lord,” she said.

The White Mass held in St. Gregory the Great Church was the third Mass for healthcare professionals hosted by the Lumen Christi Cohort, which is comprised of the parishes of St. Gregory the Great, Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony and St. Raphael-Holy Angels, both in Hamilton.

“Now more than ever we feel that it is a much-needed Mass with all that is going on with the hours our healthcare workers are putting in caring for the sick, even in this post-pandemic time,” said Tanya Taylor-Norwood, lead sacristan in St. Gregory’s. “We need to pray for them and with them.”

Before Mass, a brief history of the White Mass was offered by Susan Commini, longtime parishioner and healthcare worker, who explained that in the United States, the White Mass, named after the color worn by those in the healing profession, traces its origins to the development of the National Catholic Medical Association in the early 1930s.

From its inception, the medical profession has been understood as a healing profession, a way in which Christ’s work continues upon the earth, Commini said, noting that since the Marian apparitions at Lourdes in the late 19th century, the plight of the infirmed and those who care for them “have taken on renewed appreciation in participating in the Mysteries of Christ’s own life.”

Healthcare professionals are gathered under the patronage of St. Luke to ask God’s blessings upon them.

Homilist Deacon John Dunn of St. Raphael-Holy Angels, shared experiences of ministering to the sick, both as a nurse and when his sister died at age 40 from a terminal illness.

Deacon Dunn remembered those who offered compassionate care to his sister; nurses “who held her hand or touched her shoulder,” doctors who patiently sat and explained her condition and gave her the time to ask questions, the kind lab technician, and the chaplain who administered the Sacrament of the Sick with Viaticum – “the Eucharist, the food for her journey.”

“For a nurse, doctor, healthcare professional to offer this Christ-like compassion to the sick and the poor, no matter who they are or whatever their condition, the power of a smile, a kind word, a gentle touch, a listening ear, an honest compliment or a small act of caring, could be the best medicine,” Deacon Dunn said.

Questions about the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick?  Read Bishop O’Connell’s pastoral essay on the subject HERE: