Twice a year, in October and in May, our parish hosts an anointing (or healing) Mass. This mass is coordinated by Rachel Winters, our pastoral care coordinator. She works closely with her team of volunteers, who assist her with the homebound parishioners, hospital and nursing home visits. Another key component of this day is our Parish Nurses, headed by Betty Parks. The nurses are also vital to all visitation ministry. The nurses also coordinate all of the food for the luncheon that follows the mass.
I remember the first time that I ever attended one of these, in May of 2009. It was one of the most deeply moving liturgies that I had ever been to at the time. I have not missed one since then, and they continue to truly move – as well as heal and transform, all who are a part of this.
Sometimes people say that they’d like to go, but that they are “not sick.” I always say, do come! All are welcome and who could not use some healing?
Most of the attendees are elderly and/or infirm. I say and/or because many of our parish elderly are so vital and some people who are infirm are not so old. Again – all are welcome. Volunteers bring many people, small buses come from Glendale Home and Baptist Rehab. It is all very moving to see everyone arrive. The gathering space is alive with greeters and people, generally Jennie Grecco and her daughter Darlene Polsinelli Grecco, taking care of the name tags. Father Jerry is there, saying hello and welcoming people and Rachel seems to be in several places at once making sure everyone is welcomed and that all things are in place. Most faces are familiar, but there are new ones also. It is so beautiful to behold.
People are seated with an empty pew in between each occupied pew. When it is time for the anointing with oil, Father Jerry (and this time with Fr. Leo Markert, but it could be Father Tom Connery, our retired pastor or Fr. John Hunter who assist) and the other priest make their way from one person to another, anointing their forehead and then their palms. I also remember the first time that I received this… It is hard to find the words, but the Spirit was so profound – that I can tell you.
You see each person blessed – well I see a lot as I am taking the photos. It is so moving and really remarkable to behold. God is so good and so very present! For example, this time around, I was able to take this picture of Father Jerry anointing our prior pastoral care coordinator, Sister Betty Hunter. Sister Betty – although infirm herself – is still ministering to others at her home at Teresian House. With her we see Ed and Ann Grega, who always go pick her up and bring her to the mass. We all take care of each other, we all meet Christ in one another and we are Christ for one another.
Again, when it is time for communion, the priests, this time with cup ministers, make their way from pew to pew, so that those who have a hard time moving, can just be where they are. I am always struck by the imagery of Christ as servant as I watch the priests come to each person in each pew.
When the liturgy ends we all make our way over to the parish center to enjoy refreshment together at the lunch table. We have sandwiches and salads followed by cake and ice cream. It is always a joyful social event that follows the beautiful mass.
We are very blessed to have such a strong visitation and healing ministry at Immaculate Conception. If you can ever attend one of these, I urge you to do so. You will be truly blessed to be there!
Here are some other photos from Monday’s Mass…
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