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February 20, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA
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Attorney and Knight of Malta Tom Greerty distributes advanced care directives after the Mass for the Sick. For the first time, the Knights of Malta distributed Advance Health Care Directives, designed in accordance with Catholic teaching on end of life decisions. Attorneys from the Pope Francis Legal Clinic were on hand to answer questions. For more information, about the clinic, dial 510-893-4711.

Record 900 participate at annual Day of the Sick

Rev. Alfonso Borgen, OFM Conv., parochial vicar at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, anoints one of the faithful.

Angie Egleham is a cancer survivor. At the Mass for the Sick on Feb. 11, she received the Anointing of the Sick, a sacrament given in this special celebration by Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ.

"Before the surgery, a Catholic priest came to my hospital room, blessed me and prayed with me, which moved me a lot," said Egleham. The experiences lived in the struggle against the disease caused her to rethink her relationship with God, and gave a new impulse to her faith, she said.

"I was inconsistent, but now I always go to the church, because I need to stay positive and reinforce my need to be well," said the woman.

This was the largest turnout for the Day of the Sick in Oakland — about 900 people participated in the Mass and anointing at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, organizers said.

Since 2009, the Dames and Knights of the Order of Malta have organized the Mass for the Sick. After the services, small bottles of water from Lourdes, France, said to have curative properties, are distributed.

"Every time one of us goes to Lourdes, we bring back holy water that the young people of the order then put into small plastic containers, and we give it to the people," said Kit Greerty, a dame of Malta.

The Order of Malta operates free health and legal clinics for the poor at the cathedral center in Oakland

Greerty said former Bishop Allen H. Vigneron, now archbishop of Detroit, suggested an annual event for the sick here in Oakland after he attended one of the order's trips to Lourdes. Inspired by the journey to France, "he told us that he wanted to do the Mass every year and asked us to help him."

In his homily, Bishop Barber said, "I desire and implore that all those whom I am going to give the anointing today will be cured of their illness."

Many times, that does not happen; sometimes, it does, he said.

But in any case, "I pray that those of us who may not be able to heal our body, be healed in the spirit."

The bishop offered a special blessing to health workers, among them, those who care for sick people, and personally blessed those who requested it.

Among those who approached, some whispered their troubles to the bishop. He closed his eyes hard, imposed his hands on them and prayed for them.

Many tears were shed that afternoon, like those who came after the personal blessing of the bishop, said María Isabel Rosas, 83, originally from Atengo, Jalisco, in Mexico and now a St. Elizabeth parishioner in Oakland.

"I asked him to help me with my illness" and her sad heart, Rosas said, while her granddaughter explained Rosas, who suffered a stroke a dozen years ago, had recently lost her husband of 70 years.

World Day of the Sick was initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1992 and is held annually worldwide on the date nearest the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, Feb. 11. The Order of Malta serves the sick, and assists with many charities, including a medical and legal clinic in the cathedral center.

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