Dr. Emily Wilding, a visiting professor in pathology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, prays as Archbishop William E. Lori blesses the hospital amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)
Downtown Baltimore’s three major hospitals received Catholic blessings the morning of April 8.
Archbishop William E. Lori offered a “Blessing in Time of Pandemic” outside University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), while Bishop Adam J. Parker and Redemptorist Father Bruce Lewandowski did the same simultaneously outside Mercy Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital, respectively.
The 11 a.m. blessings came at institutions normally bustling with midday foot traffic, now relatively stilled by a ban on most patient visits due to the coronavirus pandemic. The blessing was for both those ill with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and those caring for them. The rite was performed using social distancing guidelines.
“Drive out our infirmities of soul and body; free us from all disease and especially from this scourge,” the three clergymen prayed. “We ask for your blessing on all those who care for the sick: doctors, nurses, EMTs, first responders of any kind.”
Archbishop Lori was joined outside the Greene Street entrance to UMMC by, among others, Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and chief executive of the University of Maryland Medical System, and Alison G. Brown, interim president of the UMMC Downtown Campus and president of UMMC’s Midtown Campus, across Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
“On behalf of our entire medical system, I want to thank the archbishop for what he did today,” Suntha said. “What he did demonstrates that we are a community as we take on this unprecedented challenge. Being able to deliver a message, especially to our health care workforce who are on the front lines taking on a disproportionate amount of burden for the community … it’s incredibly meaningful.”
Father Lewandowski filled in for Bishop Denis J. Madden at Hopkins, where he was joined outside the main entrance on Orleans Street by Dr. Redonda Miller, its president. Father Lewandowski, the pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus/Sagrado Corazón de Jesús in Highlandtown and interim delegate for Hispanic Ministry in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, enjoyed catching up with Miller, who had intervened when a member of one of his families, from Guatemala, needed care.
“This is the first (structure) I’ve blessed in 10 days,” Father Lewandowski said, referencing one he offered at a rowhome on Highland Street where a family was mourning a recently deceased member.
The previous night, Father Lewandowski had led a meeting on Zoom for 54 parishioners who in normal times would be coming into church at the Easter Vigil April 11, and more than 200 of their family members and sponsors.
“Whenever that comes, it’s going to be a big celebration,” said Father Lewandowski, who noted that his parish’s 12:30 p.m. Mass in Spanish April 5 drew more than 9,000 viewers online. “It’s not easy staying home. People want to be in church, but everyone is concerned about safety first right now.”
At Mercy, Bishop Parker was joined at the entrance to the Mary Catherine Bunting Center on St. Paul Place by Religious Sister of Mercy Helen Amos, executive chairwoman of Mercy’s board of trustees; Father Tom Malia, assistant to the president for mission; and Dr. David Maine, executive vice president.
“It was especially heartening during this difficult time,” Sister Helen said in a statement shared by the hospital, “to witness Bishop Parker’s blessing on Mercy Medical Center this morning on behalf of the doctors, nurses, the Sisters of Mercy and all the staff who are doing so much right now as we battle this pandemic. It was a moment to lift the spirit and remind all of us of God’s presence in our lives as we strive to care for those afflicted by this disease.”
The text of the blessing follows.
Blessing in Time of Pandemic
Lord God, true Physician and Healer,
be merciful to us and grant us your aid in these troubled times.
Heal all our sickness and every affliction of your people,
especially those suffering from the pandemic that has spread so widely.
Drive out our infirmities of soul and body;
free us from all disease and especially from this scourge.
We place in your hands the elderly, the frail,
people with disability, children, young people and families,
those who are poor, lonely, and isolated.
Give them patience and hope.
We ask for your blessing on all those who care for the sick:
doctors, nurses, EMTs, first responders of any kind.
Shield them, guide them, strengthen them as
they administer treatments and care.
We implore your blessing on medical researchers and scientists
who are tirelessly working to find cures and treatments.
Reveal new ideas and accelerate their discoveries to fight this disease.
Finally, we ask that you bless our elected leaders as they enact policies and directives that are meant to protect us and keep us safe.
May they respond to the challenges of this affliction
with prudence and sound judgment.
May their planning alleviate economic burdens, compensate for losses, protect employment, and ensure ample food for the poor and isolated.
We place our trust in you, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen
Email Paul McMullen at pmcmullen@CatholicReview.org
Kevin J. Parks contributed to this article from UMMC. Paul McMullen reported from Johns Hopkins Hospital.
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