By Antonina Zielinska
During a special Mass of Inclusion for People with Disabilities, Father John Murray, C.Ss.R., pointed out that in the New Testament, Jesus was reluctant to cure physical illness but was always eager to cure spiritual illness.
“When we look for healing, it’s the Holy Spirit that heals. But you have to be careful what you want to be healed of,” he said June 4 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Sunset Park.
Father Murray broke his spine in three places after tripping on a New Jersey boardwalk seven years ago. He prayed for a miraculous cure when his fall left him paralyzed. He said he was angry, unforgiving and judgmental at his injuries.
“Then I realized that I had to allow Jesus to heal me on His schedule as He wanted to heal me,” he said.
He said God freed him of his impatience and unforgiveness.
Although God did not grant Father Murray an instantaneous miraculous healing, Father Murray astounded his doctors by learning to walk again. Nonetheless, he has not fully recovered. It took him great effort to move around the altar during Mass with the use of a walker. He delivered his homily sitting down.
“Catholics can be obsessed with health,” he said. “When you are dealing with serious physical illness you have to broaden your understanding of healing.”
After the homily, several priests offered members of the congregation the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
Among those who received it was Our Lady of Perpetual Help parishioner Marie Louis Charles. She received the sacrament several times and believes it gave her strength.
“I believe that it heals you, if you have faith,” she said. “You have to have faith.”
Lilian Navedo takes great care to bring her sister, Alicia, who has serious health challenges, to church every week. This week the sisters ended up at the Mass for Inclusion without planning on it. Lilian saw it as God’s will. She asked one of the priests to anoint her sister and as he was doing so, she said she felt compelled from within to receive the sacrament herself. She said she can’t really describe the grace that she received, but simply said: “I feel relieved.”
After Mass, the congregation was invited to breakfast and a resource fair. City, state and diocesan organizations stood at information tables to help people understand the help they offered.
Julius Pontecorvo, fire safety educator for the FDNY, was at the fair to tell people about fire safety tricks such as using baking soda for a small grease fire and the availability to alternate fire alarms, such as ones that shake a bed. He encouraged people to leave a voicemail at 718-281- 3870 to learn about free fire alarm installations, educational opportunities or to request a fire safety education event.
Lilian Navedo said she was very happy to be able to talk to agency representatives face-to-face. She has called 311 before to learn about programs for people with disabilities, but she was able to get more information to understand the services better, thanks to the fair.
Knights of Columbus Council 60 offered breakfast during the fair. Knight Danny Rodriguez recruited the help of his family members to make pancakes and serve a full breakfast at the basilica.
“I had an eight-year-old flipping pancakes last night,” he said, giving much of the credit for the breakfast to his wife, who made the batter.
Father Raphael Munday, the diocesan coordinator for Disabilities Advocacy and Deaf Ministry, presented an award to the host parish for “Excellence in Inclusion for People with Disabilities.” He said Our Lady of Perpetual Help is a prime example of how the Church in the diocese is inclu- sive of all people and is careful to make appropriate accommodations for those who need it, welcoming them to serve in various ministries. Among other features, the church has access for those on wheel- chairs and for those with difficulties walk- ing. The parish also has a lawyer on hand to advocate for people with disabilities.
Father Munday said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and the diocese, as a whole, is welcoming to people who are experiencing hardships from disabilities, whether they be physical, mental or spiritual.
“We want all to know that if you have a disability, the Church is open to you,” he said. “Reach out to your pastor so that you may offer your time and your talents to build up God’s Kingdom.”
The next Mass of Inclusion will be offered June 25, 12 p.m. at St. Mark’s, Sheepshead Bay. It will not include a resource fair or anointings.