Encouraging Words – Father Jeffrey Lee, episcopal vicar of Mercer County and pastor of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Trenton, reminded the gathering in St. Francis Medical Center that it is the responsibility of the entire Catholic community to care for the sick and infirm.

Encouraging Words – Father Jeffrey Lee, episcopal vicar of Mercer County and pastor of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Trenton, reminded the gathering in St. Francis Medical Center that it is the responsibility of the entire Catholic community to care for the sick and infirm.

By Rosemary Daniels | Correspondent

On Feb. 11, the day that the universal Church marked the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, messages of comfort and hope were conveyed to the sick and those who cared for them in Catholic healthcare facilities in the diocese. Masses and special blessings took place in St. Francis Medical Center, Trenton; Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County, Willingboro, and Morris Hall, Lawrenceville.

Against a backdrop of snow drifts and persistent drizzle, the warm and inviting chapel in St. Francis Medical Center welcomed medical and administrative staff for a Mass that was celebrated by Father Jeffrey E. Lee, episcopal vicar of Mercer County and pastor of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Trenton, and assisted by Deacon Joseph Latini, director of pharmacy in St. Francis. World Day of the Sick has been celebrated since 1992 as a day to send a message of hope to the sick and infirm, as well as to bless the medical professionals and all those who care for the ill.

In his homily, Father Lee explained, “World Day of Prayer for the Sick is an opportunity to reflect on the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death, a reminder that the pastoral care of the sick and infirm is not solely the responsibility of medical professionals or certified pastoral care workers but of the entire Catholic community. In this way we continue to build the communion of the Church by recognizing the needs among us and bringing our Christian faith to all those in need.”

”At the end of the Mass, Father Lee offered the Blessing of Health Care Professionals and said, “We thank all those present  for all that you are doing for the sick, infirm and all those entrusted to your care.”

He specifically recognized Gerard Jablonowski, president and CEO, for leading a facility that has a long tradition of advancing the mission of care for all those in need. St. Francis Medical Center was founded in 1874 by the Sisters of St. Francis in Philadelphia, and, as Jablonowski notes in a recent message to the Greater Trenton community, “We remain dedicated to a mission that values the sanctity of life and places the highest priority on treating every individual with dignity.”

Dr. C. James Romano, chief medical officer, has worked at St. Francis for the last 24 years. He said, “We look forward to having this particular Mass each year.”

Mary Anne Suttles, chief nursing officer, who proclaimed the responsorial psalm, said, “We are fortunate to have Mass regularly in this chapel.”

 “It’s a blessing for the staff and a nice way to celebrate this day of healing,” Jablonowski said at a reception following the Mass. “Later, the chaplains will walk through the hospital, offering blessings to the patients and the staff.”

Father Lee visited with several patients afterward, explaining the significance of the day and offering prayers for each person’s speedy return to health. Encountering a small group that recognized him from recent visits, Father Lee thanked them for their service and offered a special blessing for them to continue their important work.

Lourdes Medical Center observed the day with a Mass and luncheon for the staff, according to Connie Giampaolo, director of spiritual care.

Other observances in place, Giampaolo said, included the display of a donated painting of Our Lady of Lourdes and the distribution of prayer cards with special intentions for the sick and the concerns they experience.

“The prayer intentions help to give voice to the sick and ill among us,” Giampaolo said.

“World Day of the Sick holds special significance at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County because it is also our feast day,” said Giampaolo. “Our Lady brought many miracles and she still does. It seems very providential that the Church would honor Our Lady by marking her feast, a day of prayer and healing for the peoples of the world.”

Mary Stadnyk, news editor, contributed to this story.