Priest affirms source of hospital’s healing power


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One thing — the healing power of presence — has remained constant through all of the changes at SSM St. Mary’s Hospital in Jefferson City since its founding in 1905.

That same power will continue to drive St. Mary’s, regardless of any changes that come.  

Father Gregory Meystrik made that assertion during an afternoon Mass on Dec. 16, the Third Sunday of Advent, in the atrium of the hospital.

About 50 people, mostly hospital volunteers and members of the St. Mary’s Auxiliary, attended the Mass, during which Fr. Meystrik blessed the hospital’s Tree of Life.

The evergreen tree was adorned with Christmas lights and white stars personalized in honor of people’s loved ones.

Fr. Meystrik, pastor of St. Aloysius parish in Argyle and diocesan moderator of the curia, grew up in Jefferson City.

St. Louis-based SSM Healthcare, which owns and operates the SSM St. Mary’s Hospitals in Jefferson City and Mexico, announced in August that it had entered into exclusive negotiations to transfer ownership of both to University of Missouri Health Care.

Negotiations continue.

Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City said that if the transaction takes place, he plans to collaborate with healthcare professionals and civic officials to ensure that Catholics and others working in healthcare may continue to “provide healing and care in our communities according to the values of our Christian faith.”

Drawing upon the charism of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary who founded the hospital, Fr. Meystrik stated his firm conviction that through any changes that take place in the ownership and governance of St. Mary’s, the healing presence of Christ will endure and prevail.

“Over the years, we’ve had a lot of change,” he noted. “There may be more change coming up, and a lot of it is beyond our control. But the healing power of presence that is evident here every day from physician to patient, from nurse to patient, from healthcare provider and staff person to patient — that can still be the same.”

The priest cited as an example the joy brought by volunteers when they deliver coffee and beverages during the morning rounds at the hospital, by the people who operate the gift shop, and by those who visit the respite rooms.

“That brings a lot of joy and a lot of peace to people,” he said. “Your smile and your welcome and your encouragement, your positive attitude of just telling people, ‘Hey, I’ll be praying for you today during your procedure, whatever it may be’ — that’s the healing power of presence!”

He pointed to that Sunday’s Gospel reading (Luke 3:10-18), in which St. John the Baptist announces to the people, “One Who is mightier than I am coming.”

“For each of us, that’s our Lord,” said Fr. Meystrik.

He likened the collaborative efforts at the hospital to soccer players who assist in the scoring of a goal, who are as essential to winning the game as those who actually do the scoring.

“We’re all assisters,” he said. “We can be team members of our Lord — team members of a hospital that tries to bring Christ’s healing presence into this world that yearns so much for that.”

Everyone who announces with their actions the coming of Christ helps to prepare the way for Him.

“Every cell of our bodies, every atom in the universe, longs for Christ’s return,” said Fr. Meystrik. “But the most important thing we can do is to strive to be servants, coworkers, ambassadors, friends and companions of our Lord.”