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Bishop encourages the sick to offer their suffering for the church

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Susan McCready felt as if she was brought back in time to the hills of Galilee 2,000 years ago during the Mass for Anointing of the Sick at St. Ambrose Church in Annandale March 23. “I was sitting in the pages of the Gospel where the sick came to (Christ) in droves and sat around his chair,” said McCready, a parishioner of St. Raymond of Peñafort Church in Springfield. “I just felt so blessed and graced. I couldn’t stop crying through the whole Mass. This is some of the best medicine I’ve had in seven months”

McCready was one of the many Catholics who received the anointing of the sick at the annual Mass sponsored by the Northern Virginia Region of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Malta, a fraternal group dedicated to caring for the sick and needy. The Mass, celebrated by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge; Father Andrew J. Fisher, pastor of St. Ambrose; Father Christopher H. Hayes, parochial vicar; and Father Eric Culler of the Diocese of Toledo, was followed by lunch. Before leaving, each participant received a small bottle of holy water from Lourdes. “For one day, the church is giving (the sick) a big hug,” said Father Fisher. 

In his homily, Bishop Burbidge spoke of God’s miracles. “(The Lord) comes to us today as he speaks to us in his word, blesses us with his healing love in the sacrament of anointing and gives us himself in the holy Eucharist.  We will leave here today enlightened, consoled and nourished as new persons in Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd who knows, loves and protects his flock,” he said. “That is the miracle.”

Bishop Burbidge asked the suffering and sick gathered to offer their pain for the sake of the church. “I thank the sick in our midst today for your faithful witness as you unite yourselves to the Lord and his cross. You are so very close to him at this very moment in your life,” he said. “That is why you are encouraged to offer your sufferings for the needs of the church, especially at this time in which she is in need of healing and transformation.”

Marion Scaffidi, a parishioner of St. Michael Church in Annandale who attended the Mass, was born in 1925 and contracted polio in 1932. Throughout her life she has had cervical cancer, breast cancer and cancer on her face. Today, she said she’s doing pretty well, besides having back problems. “I was just overtaken by (the Mass),” she said. “So many people showed up, it really shows that we do have faith in the diocese.”


Pete Recinto and his wife, Marilen, began coming to the Mass for the Anointing of the Sick after traveling to Lourdes through the Order of Malta. “We were new to this parish, we didn’t know anybody and then Laura Mead, the director of religious education, just approached my wife (and said), ‘Would you like to join us at Lourdes?’ And she just said, ‘Why not?’ ” said Pete. “It’s amazing, nobody has offered to take us to Lourdes, and (my wife has) been in a wheelchair for 20 years.”

The trip was a wonderful experience in a peaceful place, said Pete. “You know what I noticed? The place is all full of sick people so I was expecting people to be complaining,” he said. “But they were so happy and smiley.” The Mass of the Anointing of the Sick was another powerful experience. “I like to see the faith of the people,” he said. “You can feel their longings and hope for healing.”

The annual Mass is one of many events the order hosts throughout the year, said Mead, who serves as the regional hospitaller, or local leader. She loves seeing the witness of the sick and their caretakers, who also carry a heavy cross. “This Mass just shows me that in this time of crisis in the church, Jesus and his church are so strong and alive,” she said. “It's important in these times to run to the sacraments and to continue to trust that Our Lord will always care for us — our physical needs, our spiritual needs and any other needs that we have.”

This story has been updated.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019