Written by Deacon Jerry Jablonowski
We know that the effects of cancer are far reaching. The individual with the diagnosis of the disease faces a tremendous battle and must call upon the support of many doctors, healthcare providers, family and friends, in order to cope with the suffering and maintain hope for their cure and victory over this disease. And for survivors of cancer, there is often a great need to continually give thanks to God, the author of the victory, and to the caregivers, friends and family who have supported them through the battle. And, unfortunately and so frequently, many succumb to this disease and pass on to eternal life, leaving those loved ones to mourn their passing and grieve through the loss of a beautiful relationship.
October is Cancer Awareness Month and on Oct. 4, on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, nearly 150 people, experiencing all of the above effects, gathered at the Church of the Holy Family in Sewell, to join in the celebration of a Mass of hope, thanksgiving and remembrance. They came to pray for healing, both physical and spiritual. They gathered to offer thanks as survivors and to pray in remembrance of loved ones lost.
Father Robert Hughes, Vicar General of the Diocese of Camden, was the principal celebrant. In his homily, he shared the story of Saint Francis’ life and works, reminding his listeners how Saint Francis sought always to unite himself to the person of Christ and especially to his Passion. Francis’ own sufferings deepened his relationship with God and served as a profound witness to what we believe. Father Hughes invited those suffering with cancer and its effects to follow the saint’s example in order to find inner strength, spiritual wholeness and peace in the Cross of Christ and hope in his Divine Mercy. He reminded them that they too are called to be witnesses to the faith in their own struggles.
Forty persons with cancer received the healing grace of the sacrament of the sick during the Mass, and those in attendance who were survivors of cancer were recognized as being signs of hope and encouragement for all those currently battling cancer. After the Mass, all were invited to the Parish Center for fellowship and food and to share their stories and make new friends who will lovingly join them in their journey of hope through their illness.
The Mass was sponsored and arranged through VITALity Catholic Healthcare Services of the Camden Diocese as a special celebration of unity for those affected by cancer.
Deacon Jerry Jablonowski is executive director, VITALity Catholic Healthcare Services, Diocese of Camden.