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Our Ministry in Catholic Health Care: Transforming Hurt into Hope

Our Ministry in Catholic Health Care: Transforming Hurt into Hope

By Sandra Kary

(originally published in The Prairie Messenger)


Sandra Kary is the executive
director for the Catholic 
Health Association 
of Saskatchewan

One of the most common quotes used to describe Catholic health ministry is by Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, "Our distinctive vocation in Christian health care is not so much to heal better or more efficiently than anyone else; it is to bring comfort to people by giving them an experience that will strengthen their confidence in life. The ultimate goal of our care is to give those who are ill, through our care, a reason to hope."

What is this hope?  Is it hope for a competent medical team? Hope for a cure? Hope that we are treated with compassion? It is all these things, but most importantly, Catholic health care is about the hope for healing – healing that only Jesus Christ can offer.  

Archbishop Bohan in his recent homily at the October 2011 Compassionate Healers Mass in Regina so aptly captured this hope and healing: When Jesus healed the paralyzed man in the Gospel, He not only restored his ability to walk, He went to an even deeper level; he went to the very heart of his existence as a human being. He healed his soul. This is what Jesus came to heal in us: not just the ailments of the body but of our whole being.

This is what we make present in our ministry of compassionate healing. When we comfort people who are in pain or turmoil because of illness, when we ease their pain, and calm their fears, we are bearing witness to Jesus, the Compassionate Healer. And in that witness, Jesus comes close to them and touches them. And when Jesus draws close to any of us to give the warm touch of His gentle hand, His healing goes to the very heart of who we are.

This is the healing that our ministry shows to all who are touched by our hands – hands which we stretch out in this profound ministry we exercise. Our hands point to Jesus' hands, our compassion to Jesus' compassion, and our ministry of service to Jesus' ministry of service which has the power to heal the world, to heal our bodies and to heal our very souls.

Simply put, Catholic health care ministry is serving others with the understanding that we are the hands and feet of Jesus. It is tangible Good News, a ministry that has been exemplified and enacted throughout the centuries.

We believe this tangible Good News, this healing, will always transcend time and cultures, tradition and technology.

In the context of Catholic health ministry, there are two kinds of people – the beat-up travelers and the Good Samaritans. Those who are Good Samaritans are believers and bearers of this Good News, and as they wrap wounds and provide food and shelter, they understand that often the most powerful healing at their disposable is evidenced in a simple touch and a kind word. Those who are the travelers need only receive and embrace their healing, whether it be physical, emotional, or to the deepest spiritual level like the paralytic man in the Gospel.

And so, the healing ministry of Jesus will always remain relevant, whether we are in buildings called hospitals, or on the highways of life, we will always find ourselves in a world that desires to transform hurt into hope.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has great mercy, and because of his mercy he gave us a new life. This new life brings us a living hope through Jesus Christ's resurrection from death. I Peter 1:3.

Our compassionate care is rooted in our own healing that we have received through our Lord Jesus Christ. Our caregiving comes from a place of abundance, from a wellspring of life that is not our own. This is our hope. This is our ministry.

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