By Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Two years ago, Bob Fitzgerald saw something that seemed out of place at the annual joint diocesan healing Mass: an apparently healthy young couple sitting in the back.
“Thanks for coming,” he said, after sitting down with them after the Mass.
They had tears in their eyes.
“We’ve been trying to get pregnant,” they said. “We thought an anointing Mass would be a great place to ask the Lord to help us.”
Wow, thought Fitzgerald. He hadn’t thought the healing Mass was for that, but it made sense.
The annual healing Mass is for those with heart conditions, cancer, the frail, the elderly — any sort of illness. The anointing and prayers are for not only physical and mental healing, but for the soul as well.
“It’s open to anyone who wants to come,” said Fitzgerald, a member of the Order of Malta who helped organize the liturgy. “People from both dioceses come.”
For the past 22 years, the Order of Malta has helped organize the healing Mass and sacrament of anointing of the sick. And they’re doing it again at 10 a.m. on March 23 at Curé of Ars Parish, 94th and Mission Rd., Leawood.
The Mass is jointly sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The site of the Mass alternates each year between the dioceses, and the ordinaries of the dioceses take turns serving as main celebrant and homilist.
For this 23rd year, Bishop James Vann Johnston will be the main celebrant, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann will be the homilist. Both bishops will administer the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, assisted by a number of priests from both dioceses. There will be opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation before the Mass.
Helping the poor and sick and defending the Catholic faith is the mission of the Order of Malta.
Actually, it is called the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, said Tom Weiford, a member of Curé of Ars. The lay religious order is about 900 years old.
Weiford is also Regional Hospitaller (leader) for an area encompassing the archdiocese and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The order in this region has 39 Knights and Dames, and a larger number of Friends of the Order.
The order is also known for organizing pilgrimages for sick people to the Marian apparition site in Lourdes, France, and taking care of them there.
Not everyone can go to Lourdes, so the annual event here in the metro area is a way to bring the spirit of Lourdes to Catholics locally.
As has been the annual tradition at the event, the Lourdes pilgrimage format will be followed.
According to the format, this anointing is specifically intended for those undergoing surgery whenever a serious illness is the reason; elderly persons who have become noticeably weakened, even if not seriously ill; and sick children if they have sufficient use of reason to be strengthened by the sacrament.
The sacrament of reconciliation will be available from 8:45-9:45 a.m. There will be a light reception following the Mass, and Lourdes water will be distributed.
The order is asking those who wish to receive the sacrament of the anointing of the sick at Mass to register by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (816) 622-2323. Name cards will be made for those receiving the sacrament.