Bishop Johnston visits St. Joseph and St. Mary’s Medical Centers

While touring newly-and-soon-to-be-completed areas of St. Joseph Medical Center Nov. 5, Bishop Johnston posed for a photo with Staff Nurse Sister Eileen, St. Joseph Medical Center CEO Jodi Fincher, and Father Anthony Williams. (Megan Marley/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. paid a morning pastoral visit to St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City and likewise visited St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs in the afternoon, two of the historically Catholic hospitals in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

Several dozen St. Joseph Medical Center physicians, chaplains and administrative personnel, as well as volunteers and several Catholic Chancery staff members seated themselves throughout the St. Joseph Medical Center Chapel on the east side of the campus to hear Bishop Johnston speak.

After an introduction by Father Anthony Williams, Director of Mission Integration, priest-chaplain and Manager of Spiritual Care, for the two medical centers, Bishop Johnston rose to speak.

He glanced around the chapel, smiling. “Catholic hospitals are a real blessing,” he began. “Hospitals are a community within a community. The sick are cared for by the medical staff, the staff are governed by the administration and they in turn are directed by the Board of Directors and the companies that own the hospitals. In a Catholic hospital, the care, the service — all is done in the name of love.”

He read from the Gospel for Nov. 4, Mark 12:28-34, about the Greatest Commandment, which is also spoken of in Deuteronomy 6:4-5.

“One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’

Jesus replied, ‘The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!

‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

‘The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’

The scribe said to him, ‘Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’

And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.

And when Jesus saw that [he] answered with understanding, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And no one dared to ask him any more questions.”

Bishop Johnston added that the reading was beautiful and apropos of the remarks he was about to make. He said that the words “Hear o Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!” are the beginning of the verses of the Shema Ysrael, which since the days of the Exodus from Egypt, have been inscribed on parchment and tucked inside a mezuzah, placed on or near the front door of a Jewish home. Christianity adds the second command: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The bishop then spoke of dreams. “We all have dreams,” he said, “and some people remember every dream, some only a few. Some of the few dreams I remember make no sense, meaning I ate too much ice cream before going to bed (laughter).

“Some dreams, however, are very powerful. I remember a dream I had about the house my family lived in until I was about 12.” He said that in reality the current owners hadn’t taken very good care of the house, and it was dilapidated. But in his dream, it had been all fixed up, updated in some ways and in others exactly as he remembered his childhood home.

“In my dream, my mom and I walked through it together. The house was in great shape.” He described his memory of a fireplace open to the kitchen on one side and a family room on the other. “It was still there!” Built-in bookcases in another room were also still there in his dream. “It reminded me that places we live in are important because of the events that took place there. Those change over time.”

He returned to the subject of love. “Love is not necessarily all about emotion. Love is making the gift of yourself to another person, without conditions, as God does. It isn’t easy to do. Remember the words of Christ in Mark’s Gospel, ‘Love with all your heart, all your understanding and all your strength’ without reservations.”

He read from an Associated Press story about the Jewish nurse who cared for the wounded shooter of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. He treated the shooter, Robert Bowers, for gunshot wounds, and said he didn’t speak about his religion … “’I wanted him to feel compassion. I chose to show him empathy. I felt that the best way to honor his victims was for a Jew to prove him wrong. Love, that’s why I did it. Love as an action is more powerful than words and love in the face of evil gives others hope … demonstrates humanity … reaffirms why we’re all here … Love is the only message I wish to instill … If my actions mean anything, love means everything.’”

Bishop Johnston acknowledged that in “today’s society there is divisiveness, fracturing. Catholic hospitals are places to find mercy and love. Hospitals and other places grounded in love are places where amazing things happen: Justice, peace and mercy are given regardless of a person’s background, race, creed, or financial situation.”

He said, “… As Christians, our understanding of the human person comes from Divine Revelation and Natural Law. We are created in the image and likeness of God, created by, out of and for love … out of and for communion of and with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit … it’s all about love.”

Prayer, he continued, is an expression of the heart, love and soul. The presence of Christ in a hospital can bring peace of soul, an expression of love.

He thanked the hospital staff and volunteers for making “love” a reality. “You are doers of the Word, you put love into action and people experience the love of God through care. Hospitals can be a source of light in an increasingly dark society,” he said.

Afterward, Bishop Johnston toured some of the recently completed areas of the medical center, including the Senior Suites, met more staff and some of the patients. In the afternoon, he and Fr. Williams visited St. Mary’s Medical Center.


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October 23, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph