Mass recognizes caregivers' work - Catholic Courier

Mass recognizes caregivers’ work

If you find yourself grumbling a little bit as you get ready for work, you’re not alone.


Many people heading to their jobs each morning think such things as “I’m only working to put food on the table” or “I go in and it’s a drudgery each day,” said Blake Duffy, a parishioner of St. Anne Parish in Palmyra. They don’t often think their jobs can provide ways for them to give glory to God, he added.

Two years ago he and his fellow members of the joint liturgy committee for St. Anne and St. Gregory Parish in Marion decided to try to change that.

“We tried to look at having a Mass to celebrate the people that work in various types of human endeavors,” Duffy said.

In 2005 the parishes held a special Mass to honor individuals who work in the field of education. On Oct. 18 the Palmyra and Marion parishes teamed up with St. Patrick Parish in Macedon — which they will be clustering with in the next few years — to hold a Mass for those in the medical and care-giving fields, and next year the parishes plan to hold a Mass for artisans, craftspeople and those involved in service work, Duffy said.

“It’s trying to move it a step beyond. What we were trying to do was enable people to see their jobs as their ways to use work … to glorify God. I don’t think we (usually) look at it that way at all,” Duffy said. “The work in itself becomes their way of glorifying God. It’s a way we pray.”

This year’s Mass of Christ the Healer was held on Oct. 18, the feast day of St. Luke, who is the patron saint of physicians, Duffy said. The parishes decided to focus on people who were involved in any sort of healing ministry and asked parishioners to generate a list of people they knew who were involved in the health-care field, said Donna Fitch, pastoral associate at St. Anne and St. Gregory parishes.

“They could be the janitor who cleans the floor in the hospital or the brain surgeon, and anyone in between,” Fitch said.

The parishes also invited people who did not work as full-time caregivers or medical professionals, but rather spent their free time caring for loved ones who were ill or elderly. They took special care to invite such individuals, who at first may not have thought the Mass applied to them, Duffy said.

“It was hard to get the message out, because if you’re taking care of an aging mother or father, you don’t necessarily see yourself as a caregiver,” he added.

After compiling a list of names, members of the joint liturgy committee mailed invitations to about 60 people and published announcements about the event in the parish bulletins. Approximately 70 people attended the Mass, and about 35 of those people considered themselves caregivers or members of the health-care profession in some way, Duffy said.

One of those people was Vernon Smith, a member of St. Patrick Parish. After his late wife, Joan, suffered a massive stroke on July 4, 1990, and was left paralyzed on her right side, Smith spent the next 15 years taking care of her. For the first 10 years she attended an adult day-care and therapy program at St. Ann’s Community in Rochester while Smith was at work, but they spent each evening together.

Smith retired in 2000, and after that he and his wife were together every moment until she passed away on Aug. 21, 2005, at the age of 61. Caring for his wife did not feel like a burden for Smith, he said. In fact, not only did he find it rewarding, he also found it fun, he noted.

“I never dreamed I could have so much fun with a girl. My wife and I, we literally did everything together for 15 years,” Smith said.

Two months after Smith’s wife died, he began spending time in Rochester with his uncle, Wesley Jenkins. Jenkins, who was in the early stages of dementia and had difficulty moving around after having knee, shoulder and hip replacements, could not stay home alone, so Smith stayed with him while his aunt, Ellen Jenkins, was in the hospital for surgery.

Smith continued spending time with his uncle even after his aunt came home from the hospital, and now he spends a few days a week in Rochester with his uncle, he said. They eat meals together, play cards in the afternoon and sometimes spend summer days fishing under local bridges. They enjoy their time together, and Smith said this allows Ellen Jenkins to take a break from her own caregiver responsibilities.

“His wife takes care of him 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She needs a respite. She needs to get out of the house,” Smith said. “It’s rewarding to be able to spend time and help people out when they need help.”

If he wasn’t helping his aunt and uncle, Smith said he would probably be volunteering as a caregiver somewhere else. He noted that the Mass for caregivers and medical workers also was rewarding.

During the Mass, caregivers and those involved in healing work received candles, took part in a special procession and rededicated themselves to their work. During the rededication, their works were compared to the healing work Christ did during his lifetime, Duffy said.

“They are reaching out, they are consoling people, they are listening to them, they are healing them. When they hold someone’s hand, when they listen to their complaints, their agony and pain, they realize they’re doing God’s work,” Duffy said.


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