BALTIMORE — Downtown Baltimore’s three major hospitals received Catholic blessings the morning of April 8.
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori offered a “Blessing in Time of Pandemic” outside the University of Maryland Medical Center, while Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Adam J. Parker and Redemptorist Father Bruce Lewandowski, pastor of Baltimore’s Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish and interim delegate for Hispanic Ministry in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, simultaneously said the same prayer 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.”
Lori was joined outside the entrance by hospital officials.
“On behalf of our entire medical system, I want to thank the archbishop for what he did today,” said Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System. “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.”
Lewandowski filled in for retired Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden at Hopkins, where he was joined outside the main entrance by Dr. Redonda Miller, the hospital president.
“This is the first (structure) I’ve blessed in 10 days,” Lewandowski said, referring to one he offered before at a Baltimore home where a family was mourning a recently deceased member.
The previous night, Lewandowski led a meeting on a video conference call for 54 parishioners who were planning to be welcomed to the 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 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 Hospital, Parker was joined at an entrance by hospital officials including Mercy Sister Helen Amos, executive chairwoman of the hospital’s board of trustees, who said in a statement that the hospital blessing was “especially heartening during this difficult time.”
She said the prayer for doctors, nurses, the Sisters of Mercy and all the staff “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.”
Contributing to this story was Kevin Parks.
McMullen is managing editor and Parks is a staff writer of the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.