While the church has long been a source of spiritual comfort, initiatives have been taken to ensure it looks after parishioners’ health and wellbeing too.
And why not: It was Saint Pope John Paul II who began the observance of World Day of the Sick on February 11. The awareness day was created in 1992, a year after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This year, Pope Francis founded World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, an annual event marked every fourth Sunday of July. “The whole Church is close to you—to us—and cares about you, loves you and does not want to leave you alone!” he said to the elderly in his Message. (Read: Pope Sets up World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly)
Health is not a new ministry in the church. According to a report by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), about 60 to 70 percent of the country’s dioceses already have their own standalone healthcare ministries in place. Meanwhile, feeding programs and other healthcare projects are managed by the dioceses’ social action center.
See how two dioceses and a parish church address the importance of their community’s health and wellness through relevant and technology-driven programs.
Standalone Ministry for Healthcare
Diocese of Naval, Biliran Province
Last February 11, and in time with World Day of the Sick, the Diocese of Naval in Bilaran Province launched a standalone ministry for healthcare. Set to work with parishes on their health and wellness issues, it aims to reach out to congregations of all faiths and denominations.
According to Naval Bishop Rex C. Ramirez, plans include collaborating with public health agencies and establishing programs that prioritize the elderly, specifically those who are sick. (Read: Catholic Diocese Launches Prayer Platform for COVID-19 Patients)
Diocese of Kalookan
In response to the rising mental health-related cases triggered by the pandemic, the Diocese of Kalookan created a helpline for community members seeking counseling, emotional comfort, or just a listening ear. The hotline (0998) 4014-777 directs a caller to the Covid Hopeline team of mental health experts and priests, who will provide psychological and moral support. (Read: Pope Francis Recalls How Seeing a Psychiatrist Eased His Anxiety)
“We launched our own ‘Hopeline’ so that we’ll be able to help our people in the diocese when they need the guidance of a priest or a psychiatrist,” said Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan in a report.
The bishop hailed the internet and social media in the ongoing pandemic, calling them gifts “of modern technology that have been particularly helpful during the current crisis.” Besides the Covid Hopeline, the Diocese of Kalookan has been able to look after its parishioners’ mental state through psycho-spiritual webinars and online counseling.
Parish Age of Legacy Mission (PALM)
Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Quezon City
Since it was founded by Fr. Angelito Ancla on July 29, 2012, this ministry for the elderly aims “to make the senior citizens and elderly of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and areas nearby feel how it is to be cared for, not only physically and financially but also spiritually and emotionally,” says its website. “In turn, our dear senior citizens and elderly feel how important they are to society by sharing their wisdom through stories of their experiences in life and the many lessons they have learned given their age.” (Read: Pope: Grandparents, elderly are bread that nourishes our life)
PALM’s programs include the formation and training of volunteers to better serve senior citizens; prayer as spiritual nourishment of both volunteers and beneficiaries; addressing the physical, psycho-emotional, and social needs of the elderly; home care and home visits for beneficiaries with limited mobility; and resource mobilization to support PALM’s programs and activities.
An online Mass for senior citizens was held last July 28, 2020 to commemorate PALM’s 20th anniversary.