A statue of St. Joseph and the Christ Child is seen in 2009 outside the entrance of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. In 1895, the Sisters of Mercy founded what would become one of the country’s leading medical centers. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted announced March 24 that the Eucharist can now be reserved and Mass can be celebrated in hospital and medical center’s chapel. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Editor’s Note: This story will continue to be updated.

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.

“This step is an act of good faith toward continuing the reconciliation process between the Diocese of Phoenix and St. Joseph Hospital and Medical Center,” Fr. Ignatius said. The collaborative committee “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.”

Bishop Olmsted removed St. Joseph’s Catholic status in 2010 after the hospital’s ethics committee approved the decision to terminate a pregnancy through an induced abortion.