Jesus on the Front Lines

News: US News
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  March 30, 2020   

Traveling bishop blesses pandemic fighters with Eucharist

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MANCHESTER, N.H. (Church - A New Hampshire bishop is traveling across the state blessing all who are battling the Wuhan virus with Christ's Real Presence.

Manchester's Bp. Peter Libasci is bringing the Blessed Sacrament to all parts of the Granite State, blessing medical workers, patients and first responders. On Saturday afternoon, Libasci was outside Manchester's Catholic Medical Center, blessing health care workers and patients with the Eucharist raised in a large monstrance.

"No matter what, the Lord always traveled around the cities and towns," Libasci said. "He healed the sick."

The bishop said he was bringing Christ's peace to those struggling with the pandemic.

"He cured the sick. I'm not going be able to do that, but I can bring the graces, the blessings to encourage and to ask God to intercede," affirmed Libasci.

After blessing the medical center, Bp. Libasci then visited Manchester's firefighters, whose paramedic unit is now on high-alert owing to the rapid spread of the virus. Later in the day, he drove with the Eucharist to medical and first responder facilities in Concord and Laconia.

On Sunday, the bishop traveled with Christ to health facilities in northern Maine. Meanwhile, the majority of New Hampshire citizens are observing a stay-at-home order issued by the state's Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

Sununu's order, which went into effect on Friday, does allow residents to leave their homes to visit family or provide care for others. It also stipulates that when going outdoors for errands or exercise, everyone is to maintain social distancing at all times.

I can bring the graces.

In providing spiritual care for those dealing with the Wuhan virus, Libasci is careful to maintain the set norms by keeping his distance from others so as not to contract or spread the contagion.

As he travels, the bishop is calling on people to help, encourage and support each other during the crisis enveloping the United States and the world. The virus has already infected nearly 750 thousand people in more than 200 countries, claiming more than 35 thousand lives.

The United States now leads the world in the number of those infected, with 144 thousand known cases and more than 500 deaths. In Maine, there are fewer than 300; of these patients, three have died.

Bp. Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas

Libasci's role in taking Jesus to the front lines follows a pattern set by Bp. Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas. On March 13, as the pandemic was taking hold in the United States, Strickland took the Blessed Sacrament to the streets of Tyler by conducting a eucharistic procession.

Accompanied by a flock of parishioners, Strickland began the procession at 7 a.m., traveling nearly a mile circling the area around Tyler's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Strickland called the procession a "great blessing and a moment of grace."

"It was a blessing to collectively turn to the Real Presence of the Lord and ask Him to help us and protect us," he recounted.

Strickland described his "simple procession":

We processed inside the cathedral, pausing to the east, west, north and south to pray and ask the Lord of Lords to offer His grace and protection. Then the procession continued outside the cathedral and did the same around the cathedral block and, pausing at the four directions of the compass, to ask Our Lord to protect the City of Tyler, the diocese, the nation and all of God's people around the world.

Strickland asked his own priests to conduct such processions. He likewise invited all bishops to fight the Wuhan virus with Christ's Real Presence, but so far, Libasci has been the only U.S. prelate to follow suit.

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