WINTER SPRINGS | Since COVID-19 struck central Florida last year, Monsignor John Bluett, pastor of St. Stephen Parish has watched his community suffer loss, attend funerals, and try to overcome the feeling of helplessness when people could not accompany their beloved friends and family in their last moments. Wanting to do something to help, Prayers for Hope and Healing, a community prayer service, took place Feb. 11. Bishop John Noonan joined him, alongside Father George Dunne and Deacon Jim Ferruzzi.
“We’re dealing with people every day who are struggling and hurting – burying people who are family members. There’s a lot of pain in our world today, and our communities too,” Monsignor Bluett said. “So, I thought of lifting people up in prayer; giving thanks for the first responders, the heroes, as well as especially praying for those who have lost loved ones.”
Bishop Noonan lit the Christ candle as a sign of hope in the darkness and prayed for “the gift of every person.” Then, Father Dunne outlined the evening noting the appropriateness of the event falling on the World Day of the Sick and the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Following each of four readings, someone affected personally by the pandemic gave testimony of their experience and reflected on where they found shimmers of light to urge them onward.
Kathy Devecchio spoke of her father’s last days. She found peace in her daily prayer to the Holy Spirit. “When I’m feeling down or anxious, I ask Jesus to bring me His peace. I ask for the Holy Spirit to dwell in my heart, mind, body, and soul. When I ask, it happens,” she said. The night before her father passed, she felt the Holy Spirit urging her to call him. “Even though I knew he was not alert, I needed to speak to him,” she recalled. She reached a nurse who placed the phone close to his ear as Devecchio thanked him for being a loving father and assured him of God’s love. “I said everything I needed to say to him,” she shared.
The experience affirms the goodness of so many healthcare workers assisting family members to be present to dying loved ones. Dr. Mary Busowski is a palliative care and hospice physician. “Imagine you haven’t seen your mom because you don’t have access and the next thing you know she’s in the hospital with COVID and you’re not allowed to visit,” she said narrating the familiar scene from this past year. She noted how healthcare workers were the ones who could step in and “paint the picture” for families. “Just taking the time to be present and allowing family members to connect” was an answer to her daily prayer: “Lord, please open my eyes and my mind and let me use my hands and my heart to be your hands and feet.” Releasing it into His hands gives her the peace needed to go forth.
She relayed a recent occasion where she helped a daughter and father connect via video call. It was the last time he was coherent. Dr. Busowksi said the community prayer service was another step toward healing. “Acknowledging the burden that we’ve had in responding to this humanitarian crises… the collective sense of grief that we all have as healthcare workers, is very powerful.”
After each speaker there was a moment of silence, then a song. The service concluded with a blessing of first responders, teachers, grocery clerks and all those present who lighten the load for others. Then they went into the congregation and helped light candles. As the choir began to sing “Christ Be Our Light” others joined in, quietly processing out into the night to be a beam of hope, the light of Christ in the world.
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, February 17, 2021