By Amy Mickolite
All of the conference activities brought spiritual gifts, but it was the liturgical events that bonded the group as a community in Christ. The service of healing was one of the most profound religious encounters I have experienced.
The ceremony began with illumination. Volunteers thoughtfully placed candles on each of the main tables; additionally, they placed a single candle in front of photos of deceased NACC members.
Fr. Richard Bauer, presider, welcomed all to “be present in the moment but mindful that tomorrow we go back to our own Jerusalem, and may we do so with our Hearts on Fire.”
Fr. Bauer invited us to join him as he blessed the holy water. Barbara Burkhardt’s reading from
James 5 reminds us: “the Lord’s coming is near. Be patient in the face of suffering.” Mark 5:21-34 was the Gospel reading recounting several miraculous healings by Jesus, particularly the woman who had so much faith that “if I just touch his clothes I will be healed.” Sr. Rosemary Abramovich, OP, offered an insightful homily based on the scripture.
James tells us that in time of sickness the “elders of the church will pray over those in need and anoint them in the name of the Lord.” During the liturgy of the anointing, we were once again welcomed to raise hands and bless the oil. This invitation from our presider was a powerful gesture of spiritual hospitality celebrating the communal Kingdom of Christ.
Along with Fr. Bauer, four other priests assisted in the sacramental blessing. Those desiring anointing, the vast majority present, remained seated, and others stood with those individuals as the sacrament was offered. The act of witnessing and laying hands on those receiving sacramental anointing was truly grace-filled. It was humbling to bear witness to the far-reaching impact of suffering. I believe we also experienced healing.
The power of the sacramental act, of singing, and of offering spiritual love to one another spilled into our reciting of the Lord’s Prayer and our offering of peace to one another. Fr. Bauer suggested that each of us recite the prayer in our language of origin. Many voices in unison but vastly different tones and words created a feeling that our faith was strong enough to conquer any ills. Our heartfelt exchanges of peace mirrored our spiritual fervor. Simply shaking hands would not have sufficed.
At the close of the service most lingered for a time, wanting to remain in this beautiful, sacred space. “It was a meaningful liturgy with such appropriate music,” said Alycia Gorman, my tablemate. Fr. Fidelis Umukoro, seated next to me, added, “It was a spirit-filled and holy celebration.”
Our music ministers were a consistent presence throughout the conference. These volunteer musicians, who serve regularly at various churches in the local diocese, formed a new cohesive professional group. NACC staff, leadership, and members offer sincere gratitude for the commitment and stellar efforts of main vocalist Barbara Guenther, fellow singers Angelica Facio and Vernon Reza, flutist Carol Feeney, guitarist and vocalist Steve Herrera, and Kevin Newman on piano and voice accompaniment.
Amy Mickolite is a palliative care chaplain at Wellspan Health York Hospital in York, PA.