The ill, the infirm and their caregivers in the Diocese of Phoenix are invited to attend a Mass of healing and spiritual rejuvenation as the world continues to press toward an end to the novel Coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 3.2 million lives worldwide, including over 17,000 Arizonans.
The World Day of the Sick Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted at noon, Saturday, May 22, at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Church in Scottsdale.
The service will be followed immediately by a Catholic Fair inside the parish’s social hall.
The church is located at 10755 N 124th St., in east Scottsdale.
Normally celebrated at the Cathedral of Ss. Simon and Jude in Phoenix, the Mass is being moved this year due to the cathedral’s ongoing renovation. St. Bernard’s has a seating capacity of around 1,000 that will be cut roughly in half to accommodate social distancing, according to Tim Jeffries, KM, of the Sovereign Order of Malta, which organizes and oversees the Mass.
Held annually at sites across the globe to coincide with World Day of the Sick, an observance established by St. John Paul II nearly 30 years ago, the Mass was cancelled last year by the pandemic. The Order of Malta brought it back this year as a virtual event in some U.S. cities but decided on an in-person service after concluding Arizona had made enough progress in vaccinating the public while maintaining a relatively low level of cases.
The Arizona Dept. of Health reported almost 2.3 million residents – or about 30 percent of the eligible population – had been fully vaccinated as of April 30, meaning they had either received both doses of the 2-shot series or the single-dose vaccine.
“Our trinitarian God made us for communion,” Jeffries explained. “One of the great tragedies of the pandemic has been the immense isolation people were subjected to and suffered from. I think this Mass is important for people to come together with our bishop and the Eucharist, and to enjoy one of the greatest Sacraments God gave us.”
“If (someone suffers physically), there is a good chance they are suffering spiritually. The anointing is still viewed by many Catholics as something you receive right before you pass. (But) someone in chronic pain can experience a chiseling away of their spirit,” Jeffries said.
Bishop Olmsted will lead a contingent of priests in anointing the sick and blessing caregivers’ hands after the Liturgy. Anyone wishing to receive the sacrament may do so. Special seating for those in wheelchairs will be provided. Dozens of Knights and Dames from the Order will be there to pray with participants as well as assist any who need help getting to the altar.
The Mass will be available virtually as well.
“We will be following social-distancing guidelines to a “T,” said Jeffries. “Masks will be required (unless someone is physically unable to wear one). Seating will be limited to every other row. Hand sanitizers will be available,” he said.
A modern, newer church with a semicircular pew arrangement, St. Bernard’s is part of a campus that contains other buildings as well. Jeffries said attendance estimates based on marketing responses are being reviewed to determine if an overflow contingency is needed.
History of World Sick Day Mass
World Day of the Sick was established in 1992 by St. John Paul II, who as pope wanted an occasion to offer prayers for those suffering from illnesses. It is also an opportunity to recognize the ministry of health-care workers, hospital chaplains, and all who care for the sick. John Paul II chose Feb. 11 as the date because it coincides with the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, a title given to the Blessed Mother after her appearances to St. Bernadette Soubirous at a grotto in Lourdes, France, in 1858. Each year, millions travel to Lourdes, seeking healing.
Knights and Dames from the Order also lead annual pilgrimages to Lourdes. Jeffries said on Aug. 31-Sept. 8 the Order will take 55 individuals with various conditions from the entire Western U.S. During the trip, the Knights and Dames will also collect water from the grotto and bring it back to the United States for distribution. Water previously collected will be handed out and blessed at the May 22 Mass. The Knights and Dames also will collect prayer cards to be taken to Lourdes and left at the grotto. Jeffries said the Order will have a web page operating soon (Praywithmalta.com) where interested parties can submit prayer requests online.
This year’s Mass will be immediately followed by refreshments and an informational fair. Historically, the fair has been labeled a health event, but Jeffries said the name was changed this year to reflect its true scope, which is to “celebrate all things Catholic” not just those tied to health.
“This is like a trade show for Catholics. The Church does so many wonderful things in the world and there are so many ministries in the diocese, we wanted to celebrate that.”
Jeffries said some of the booths at the fair will include: The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Homes, Catholic Order of Foresters, Crosier Fathers and Brothers, Holy Family Hospital Foundation, the Order of Malta’s neonatal hospital in Bethlehem, and more. Also expected are Catholic law firms that handle investment portfolios, Sacred Heart Gallery in Scottsdale, and Seton Catholic Preparatory High School in Chandler and Notre Dame Preparatory High School in Scottsdale.
The fair is scheduled to start at 1:45 and last until 3 p.m.