Parish reaches out to elderly, infirm with healing Mass

WRENTHAM — The November sun was out and the temperature was mild, a perfect afternoon to celebrate the annual Mass of Anointing at St. Mary Parish in Wrentham, Nov. 16. Forty-five minutes before Mass was to begin, the church parking lot was filling up with vans pulling in an out, dropping off elderly in wheel chairs, and with teenagers helping them into the church.

More than 40 elderly residents from Maples, Serenity Hill and Pond nursing homes attended Mass and were anointed by Father John Connolly, pastor of St. Mary Parish, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

Nineteen attendees were wheelchair bound and took the opportunity to use the elevator that was built 10 years ago for the handicapped.

Father Connolly began the Mass telling parishioners that he was very happy to see the people in their church, ready to receive the Holy Spirit. He asked the parishioners to pray for those who look after them — the doctors, nurses and care givers of Wrentham who are filled with the Holy Spirit in their pursuit of excellent care for those in need. Father Connolly read from First Corinthians and spoke of how we need an abundance of love to get through this life. He told the congregation that it was out of an “abundance of love for God that the sick and frail from area nursing homes attended this Mass of Anointing.”

In his homily, Father Connolly told the congregation that everything in life revolves around love. Like God, love has no beginning and no end, he said.

According to Father Connolly, the special anointing Mass could not have happened without volunteers from the Parish.

"I love the outreach people of St. Mary's. The expression of love for senior citizens is a lesson we should all learn from," he said. "This is a community that loves their Church and is willing to serve any brother or sister. Creed or color doesn't matter."

Father Connolly has been the pastor at St. Mary Parish for the past nine years and is extremely proud of the volunteers in his ministry. He believes that the Anointing Mass for the elderly and housebound is important because it shows Catholics who are in nursing homes that they are needed and missed at Sunday Mass.

"The anointing and the Mass is an opportunity to say we, the parish, have not forgotten the sick and elderly. It is also an opportunity for me, as their pastor, to let them know that the staff, nurses, and doctors at the nursing homes they live in are doing the work of Jesus, and these people are not forgotten. They are truly loved," said Father Connolly.

Many parishioners are needed to get the Mass up and running — from van drivers to musicians to people to pass out refreshments after the celebration.

Alex Kuznezov, the music director for St. Mary’s, always participates in the anointing Mass.

"This Mass is wonderful," said Kuznezov. "It is a great opportunity for parishioners to experience parish life. Father Connolly does great work with the area homes, and I admire his priestly duties. He is a great mentor at this parish and never stops helping the elderly in the nursing homes."

According to Kuznezov, the music for the anointing Mass is extremely important. “Music can invoke memories in the patients, so I decided to use songs that the Church has used for a very long time, such as ‘O Sacrament, Most Holy’ and ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ for the recession. These songs, all generations know. The music shows the piety of the Eucharist.”

Parishioner Don Jackson worked on coordinating the vans to drop off and pick up the parishioners.

"Transportation is what I worked on with people using vans and cars to get the elderly to St. Mary's. A couple weeks prior I make phone calls asking for help from the volunteers," said Jackson.

Jackson has been volunteering at St. Mary Parish for the past four years and believes the Church needs people willing to give of themselves. “The essence of life is service to others and it makes me feel alive and that I am a good person,” said Jackson.

Dolores Duffy, an outreach eucharistic minister, was on hand at the Mass to help those in need.

"I love giving my time and helping at this Mass," said Duffy. "It is great to see the homebound get out to go to Mass to receive Christ and to hear their priest. I'm happy the Church lets us do volunteer work like this."

Father Connolly concluded the Mass by asking those in the congregation to follow the two great commandments that Jesus gave to us: To go out and love God and neighbor and be filled with the Holy Spirit.