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Role for the community in caring for sick: Archbishop

By Sarah Mac Donald - 08 February, 2015


World Day of the Sick: Pic John McElroy.

The dramatic cut-backs in health care and care services for those who wish to remain in their own homes means the community’s role in caring for the sick and the lonely must be intensified, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said.

Speaking on Saturday at the Dublin Diocesan World Day of the Sick Committee seminar, ‘Parish Pastoral Councils – Facilitating Care for the Sick’, the Archbishop said the pastoral care of the sick in a parish must take place with a trained professional and high quality perspective in collaboration with public health care services.

But he underlined that this is never just a technical task. “It must be focused on the individual and will require one of those commodities not easy to find in our society: time.”

Dr Martin added, “The sick need people who have time to spend with them and who will reliably come back to them.”

The seminar at Bewley’s Airport Hotel was also addressed by Donal Harrington on the Pastoral Council and the Ministry of Caring; Fr Kevin Bartley on what parish councils can do for the sick; and Fr Peter Murphy on the new prayer book ‘I Am With You – a resource for when we experience illness and for those caring for the sick’.

A presentation from the Simon of Cyrene Home Visitation Group was also made.

Elsewhere in his opening address, Archbishop Martin underlined that professionalism must always be accompanied by simple human warmth. “The pastoral care of the sick is an essential part of the pastoral outreach of the life of any parish,” he stated.

Referring to scriptures, the Archbishop said that in his life and mission, Jesus reserved not just a special place for the sick, but “the caring for the sick became a pillar of his activity almost on a par with preaching the Good News”.

He also highlighted that a Church where the sick feel marginalised or alone or forgotten, would not reflect the way Jesus preached the Good News.

“Without that sense of caring for and embracing the sick we will never properly understand the Good News,” he remarked.

“It is telling us that the pastoral care of the sick is not simply about what we can – and indeed must do – for the sick, but about the fact that we learn something fundamental from the sick.”

“The sick of Nazareth are the sign of faith whereas the synagogue-going respectable community was the opposite,” he commented and he noted that Pope Francis in his message for World Day of the Sick of this year said “Time spent with the sick is holy time”.

He said the pastoral care of the sick then is not just one among the many tasks for the Christian community. It is not just about doing things but about a deeper encounter with those who are sick, entering into a relationship with them, of knowing them in their deepest identity, especially in their weakness and dependency, and of course praying with them.

Jesus never worked tele-healings, but stopped and touched each sick person individually, the Archbishop emphasised.

“It is in identifying with the sick person that we overcome any false ideas about our own self-importance. Only then can we become like Jesus and offer the sick true words of fraternity and Christian support and hope.”

Attendees at the seminar were given concrete suggestions as to how to structure the pastoral care of the sick in a parish in today’s world.

This addressed those who are in hospital and those who are house-bound; those who are looking towards recovery and those who know that their journey is towards death; those who are strong and courageous and those who are tormented and troubled.

The Archbishop said the outreach must be towards those who care for sick and those who find they are losing a dear one; those who have the consolation of faith and those who journey without that light.

Later today, (Sunday 8 February) Archbishop Martin will be the principal celebrant at a Mass of Healing and Anointing of the Sick at 3pm in St Canice’s Church, Finglas Village, Dublin.

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