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World Day of the Sick draws elderly and ill to church for anointment

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Harsh winter weather deters typical crowds from Mass
By Josh Tng
 
 
Photo Caption: Msgr. Bernard Rossi, the episcopal vicar for health care, prepares to anoint an attendee's palms during a special Mass with the sacrament of anointing Feb. 10 at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish.
 
Snowstorms left roads in Vancouver slick and ice-covered Feb. 10, but 150 faithful still braved the freezing rain and snow to observe the 25th World Day of the Sick.
 
Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, celebrated Mass with the sacrament of anointing for the sick and elderly at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish.
 
In his homily, the archbishop spoke about the pains of illness, saying, “There is no shame in crying out, in begging for relief, even in questioning the Lord about why we must suffer so.
 
“But if we go no further than that, we are stuck and can easily become discouraged or even bitter.”
 
The archbishop anointed the sick and elderly during the midpoint of the Mass, noting “the Sacrament is, at least in a certain way, like the angel who gave strength to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane to accept the Father’s plan.” The sacramental graces of the anointing also include restoration of health, forgiveness of sins, and spiritual preparation for death.
 
The archbishop thanked health caregivers for their compassionate service. “Through you, Jesus himself caresses and accompanies those who are suffering,” Archbishop Miller said. “Following Christ’s example, you draw near and accompany those who are sick and suffering. In doing this, in your every gesture of caring for the sick you are taking care of him.”
 
The pews were filled with young and old alike, although the crowd was thinner than in past years and only a handful of people in wheelchairs were present.
 
“It’s usually very crowded ... but the snowy streets,” said Frank McCullough, a knight of the Order of Malta, which helped the Catholic Health Association of British Columbia (CHABC) organize the Mass and provide ushers and volunteers.
 
Local retirement homes normally send buses filled with seniors, but the treacherous winter weather deterred them. “Usually we have two busloads of people in wheelchairs and walkers,” said McCullough’s wife Terry, a dame of the Order of Malta. “This is the first time they didn’t come.”
 
The McCulloughs said despite the smaller attendance, the World Day of the Sick observance remained a beautiful event. “It’s an essential celebration and I think the archbishop handles it very well indeed,” said Frank McCullough.
 
He complimented Our Lady of Sorrows parish for arranging the Mass. “These events always need the drive to come from people within the local parish.
 

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