For the first time in 10 years, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament will be present in the tabernacle at the historic St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted extended the permission for the historic hospital established by the Mercy Sisters in 1895 to have the Eucharist present in the chapel, “in a spirit of reconciliation, mercy and healing,” according to a March 24 diocesan statement.
Mass will also be able to be celebrated in the chapel according to the current liturgical restrictions. The Mass will be livestreamed to patient rooms to be viewed by patients, healthcare professionals and staff. The first Mass was celebrated March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation.
“We’ve been looking for the right time to do this,” said Fr. Ignatius Mazanowski, FHS, director of medical ethics for the Diocese of Phoenix. “This was a very important time,” he added, noting the increase in patients expected to go through the hospital in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. “We wanted to offer spiritual strength to patients, nurses, doctors and medical professionals of St. Joseph.”
A collaborative mission committee made up of representatives of the diocese, St. Joseph’s and Creighton Medical School — a Catholic university whose students receive hands-on training at the hospital — has been working to reconcile and restore the hospital’s Catholic status.
In a statement to The Catholic Sun, Linda Hunt, president and CEO of Dignity Health’s Arizona division, said she was “thrilled” about the formation of the collaborative committee.
“This committee and its initiatives will work towards furthering our missions to provide health care services to our community,” she said.
Creighton University representatives recently broke ground for the forthcoming Health Sciences campus, which will offer programs in medicine, nursing, physical therapy, pharmacy and others.
“The new Collaborative Mission Committee offers a wonderful forum for working together even more closely. Bringing together key people from each of the members will be a source of grace for our shared service of the Church and of God’s people,” said Jesuit Father Daniel S. Hendrickson, president of Omaha, Nebraska-based Catholic university. “Creighton is grateful to be included.”
Fr. Ignatius said restoring the Mass and the Eucharist at St. Joseph is an act of good faith toward continuing the reconciliation process between the diocese and the hospital and medical center. The collaborative committee, he said, “will hopefully provide more common ground to work together and ensure that these important medical ministries are working within the ethical and religious guidelines of the Church. This present step of beginning mass and the reservation of the Eucharist at St. Joseph Hospital is an important step, but not a final step.”
The decision to allow the Eucharist in the hospital’s chapel was accelerated because of the current pandemic, said Fr. Ignatius, who is a member of the committee. The presence of the Eucharist will also allow individuals to be with the Lord in prayer, while still allowing for social distancing.
“The hope is that this would bring encouragement, consolation, and healing to minds, bodies, and spirits during this challenging time,” he said.
The hospital hosted St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta during their historic visits to Phoenix in 1987 and 1989, respectively. Famous patients include the late Sen. John McCain and boxing heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali.
“This is an extraordinary moment in our country and world, a time when we are coming together to stop the spread of the coronavirus and care for those who are suffering,” diocesan officials said in the March 24 statement. “It is fitting that Jesus in the Holy Eucharist would be a source of healing, blessing, love and encouragement for all who go to St. Joseph’s Hospital.”