St Finbar's Glenbrook Parish

Bishop Anthony Homily: Mass for 20th Anniversary of Foundation of Catholic Healthcare, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, Monday 21 July 2014

28/07/2014

Homily of Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP - Mass for 20th Anniversary of Foundation of Catholic Healthcare, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, Monday 21 July 2014

Introduction

Welcome all to this very happy occasion as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of Catholic Healthcare. I am especially pleased to acknowledge the presence of: Bishop Emeritus of Parramatta, Most Rev Kevin Manning DD, and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Most Rev Terrence Brady DD VG – Catholic Healthcare is a PJP (Public Juridic Person) established by the Bishops of NSW and ACT; the Episcopal Vicar for Chaplaincies and Health, Very Rev John Boyle EV; the Trustees and Board members of Catholic Healthcare and Hawkesbury District Health Services, past and present; and Representatives of all six founding members of Catholic Healthcare.

Homily

Marion County, Oregon, had been receiving medical waste from a company, Stericycle, and converting it to energy. Then it learnt that the waste probably included babies aborted in British Columbia. Stericycle had already been fined for illegally dumping the remains of aborted babies with other commercial and residential waste in landfill. Marion County understandably withdrew from the arrangement.

This followed news from the UK in March that some NHS Trusts running government hospitals were also incinerating the remains of aborted and miscarried babies in ‘waste-to-energy’ schemes and heating the hospitals in this process. When a mother who had lost her child to miscarriage asked a nurse what would happen to her baby’s remains she was apparently told it would be incinerated with the rest of that day’s waste. Naturally enough, the mother was upset by this. Her baby wasn’t just waste, and she had been robbed of the opportunity to mark her baby’s passing and honour her baby’s short life. Happily, on hearing of this, the Health Minister banned the practice.

It is interesting to reflect on why most human beings recoil at the idea of treating the remains of the dead as mere landfill or fuel. For Christians the stories of man and woman being tenderly crafted from clay by a potter-God, formed in the womb by a provident-God, the belief that that God took our human flesh for Himself, and lived and died in a human body, and rose from the dead in that body as a promise to every human being of an eternal bodily life, and assumed that body and that of His mother into the life of heaven as yet another pledge of our future glory: all this occasions a profound reverence for the human person.

We appreciate that the human person is a dynamic body-soul unity, that in the fancy language of metaphysics the material and spiritual ”com-penetrate” and mutually enrich each other (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est 5). Our souls give life to our bodies and our bodies give concreteness to and reveal our souls, allowing us also to enjoy all material reality, including the companionship of mother and child, of friends and professional colleagues. This is behind the peculiarly Catholic practice of honouring the relics of the saints. I once celebrated Mass in Siena facing the scull of St Catherine of Siena and later in Rome over the tomb where most of the rest of her body lies! And if the bodies, even of the dead, matter, how much more do those bodies which are alive, animated by an immortal soul!

This is why Catholics care for the human body so much, especially when it is wounded, when the body-spirit unity that is the human being is sick. In today’s Gospel Jesus, the healer of bodies and souls, engages in the first Catholic healthcare (Lk 17:11-19). We see him healing lepers, as elsewhere in the Gospel he cures the blind, deaf and lame, over with fever, another with a haemorrhage, and even the dead. Jesus clearly did not regard the human body as something to be used and abused, touched thoughtlessly or disposed of carelessly. His reverence for the human body was, in fact, so deep that He left a permanent memorial of Himself in the Eucharist of His Body and Blood.

Of course, Jesus was not concerned only with the bodily health of his patients. When he cured the lepers He sent them straight to the priests: to be certified as clean and thus received back into communion. When only one, a Samaritan, returned to thank Him, He made a theological point: He asked why the others had not praised God, why they had not come back to Jesus to give God praise, why despite being Jews had left it to a foreigner to give praise to God in Him; He concluded that this Samaritan’s faith had saved him; presumably the fate of the other nine was in greater doubt.

So often with Jesus’ cures faith or forgiveness or salvation was at issue before or after the healing; the link between the physical and the spiritual was an intimate one. Jesus wanted the whole person healed, not just the physical symptoms. He understood the subtle interplay between these two dimensions in the human person and so established a Church to continue His healing touch that would be not only the biggest and oldest healthcare provider in the world but also the biggest and oldest provider of pastoral care in the healthcare setting.

Today we celebrate one arm, or finger at least, of that extraordinary project that has been and is Catholic healthcare in the 20-year-old mission of Catholic Healthcare has undertaken in pursuit of this very mission. Twenty years ago, this great group with its ever-growing and diverse works was founded at the behest of the Bishops of NSW and ACT.

Today, along with the Prophet Isaiah we “sing the praises of the Lord’s goodness, and of His marvellous deeds” as we reflect upon Catholic Healthcare’s progress and, along with St Paul, “never tire of thanking God for all the graces” received through Catholic Healthcare’s ministries (1Cor 1:3-9).

Since commencing operation in 1994, Catholic Healthcare has become the largest Catholic provider of aged and community services in this state. It now lists 43 residential aged care services and 10 retirement communities, three healthcare services and 10 community service programs across NSW and south-east Queensland. It employs more than 4000 people and engages more than 900 volunteers.

Following Jesus’ programmatic claim in John 10:10 that He had come “that they might have life, life to the full” Catholic Healthcare seeks to “promote life in all its fullness”, through service marked by compassion, honesty, hospitality, respect and excellence.

This mission and these values flow from Christ’s earthly ministry, a vision that embraces the whole person in their physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. The life of Catholic Healthcare must always be a countersign to that “throwaway culture” about which Pope Francis so often speaks, a culture that regards some babies, adolescents, adults and especially some old people as dispensable and disposable.

As Pope Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, pointed out so well in his great encyclical God is Love, no matter how well planned and executed is a secular societies education, healthcare and welfare services it cannot, by itself supply the deepest need of every human being, the need for love (DCE 31B).

May God bless Catholic Healthcare and those who work and volunteer for it so that they may always be a lived expression of His love. May God strengthen your arms always to do His work and so bring God closer to His sick, suffering, disabled, frail and elderly people. Congratulations 20-year-olds: Ad multos annos!

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