NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Those who suffer in silence can feel forgotten, or worse, invisible.
Bishop James F. Checchio of the Diocese of Metuchen, however, said it is important to remember them and even reach out to comfort them every year on World Day of the Sick.
“We don’t see them at church, he said. “Today is a reminder that we have to find them.”
Checchio led a special mass Tuesday at the chapel at Saint Peter’s University Hospital to commemorate the day introduced by Pope John Paul II as a way for believers to offer prayers for those suffering from illnesses.
World Day of the Sick coincides with the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes, the shrine in France that is a destination for those seeking physical healing by drinking from the shrine’s spring and bathing in its waters.
World Day of the Sick is observed by the anointing of the sick, one of the church’s seven sacraments. The anointing is reserved for people whose health is seriously impaired or stressed by aging. It is marked by intense prayer for the sick, reflecting on and responding to human suffering and recognizing and honoring all people who work in the healthcare field and serve as caretakers.
From the time Saint Peter’s General Hospital opened on Somerset and Hardenburgh streets in 1872 to the opening of the hospital on its current site on Easton Avenue in 1929 to the formation of Saint Peter's Healthcare System in 2007 to today, thousands and thousands of sick and injured people have treated.
Saint Peter’s mission seems to be perfectly encapsulated in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Checchio spent time visiting with patients at Saint Peter’s – the ones too ill or too frail to attend the mass.
“It’s nice to remember our sick, pray for them,” he said. “But, it’s also nice to visit them. We talk about bringing people humanity, the mission of Christ. So, it was nice having the opportunity to do that, to go visit personally with some of our sick, especially some who are sick with cancer, some are sick children in the NICU (neonatal intensive care) unit. We visited them and their families, too. It was just an opportunity to say hello, pray with them, give them a blessing.”
The solemnity of the service was punctuated by the voices of a choir made up of Saint Peter’s personnel.
The Gospel of Matthew – in which Jesus heals Peter’s mother in law – was read.
It was also a day to honor Monsignor William J. Capik, who served on all boards of Saint Peter’s University Hospital for 27 years. He was board chair for 18 years. Capik, 90, also served as pastor of Saint Peter’s Church in New Brunswick from 1974-81.
The priest who Checchio referred to as “one of our hero priests” was given a small gift in appreciation for his service.