Why should Catholics be interested in healthcare?

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Why should Catholics be interested in health and social care? That’s just one of the issues being raised in a series of roadshows coming round the diocese in June, as part of the Called to Serve the Sick season.

The roadshows, championed by Bishop Paul McAleenan, will discuss a Catholic understanding of health and social care, why Catholics should feel a particular vocation to health and social care, and what parishes can do about it. They are a direct response to Cardinal Vincent’s call in his pastoral letter to make a renewed effort to serve the sick and place them at the core of our community.

‘It is fitting that this season comes as a continuation of the Year of Mercy, giving us the opportunity to practice that most important act of Christian love, care for our neighbour,’ says Bishop Paul. ‘Good health, poor health, disability and ultimately our death, are integral aspects of what it means to be humans precious to God, and so they are of huge importance to us as Catholics.’

‘The Church has a special place of value for those who are sick, those with disabilities and those who work with and for them. Cardinal Vincent and I very much want priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful to understand that working with the sick is part of their core ministry and mission.’

The roadshows come just weeks after the Vatican produced a new Charter for Health Care Workers, which makes clear that health and social care is a way of sharing in and furthering the love and ministry of Christ himself. The care worker is a minister and ‘the healing ministry of care workers is a sharing in the pastoral and evangelising work of the Church’, which teaches that healthcare is a vocation.

The events include speakers who are pastors, healthcare workers and theologians including Fr Peter Scott, Chaplain at St Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney, Professor Jim McManus a Director of Public Health and cancer survivor, and Dr Pia Matthews from St Mary’s University.

‘Catholics are present in higher proportion in the health and social care profession,’ says Jim McManus. ‘The history of healthcare is full of efforts by the Church, its saints and people to provide health and social care. Hospitals exist because our Catholic forebears pioneered them, and Catholic agencies still provide well over 100 care homes alone in England and Wales.’

Participants will have time to reflect on this teaching and their role. ‘There is so much we do already, and so much we could do easily, like supporting and valuing stressed and hardworking frontline care workers, and welcoming those with mental ill-health and dementia better in our parishes,’ he added. ‘This evening will give signposts and pointers to help people do just that.’

Organisers hope people come away feeling valued and enthused, says Bishop Paul. ‘Participants will be aware of the importance of a Catholic understanding of health and social care, why the Catholic Church is so interested in health and social care, and come away with ideas and resources on what they could do next.’

The evening roadshows will come in seminar format, with especially-written prayers to begin and end, time to listen to talks, and time to discuss with other participants over a cuppa. The events will give Catholics a range of resources from a delegate pack with prayer material, reading and website links to brief talks about the Art of Dying Well (artofdyingwell.org) and the newly launched foundation degree in healthcare, theology and ethics at St Mary’s University.

To register and for more information go to www.rcdow.org.uk/called-to-serve-the-sick