The Healing Ministry of Christ — Advent

(Photo by Peter Oliver, CHAS)

By Peter Oliver, Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan

Catholic Health Care is fundamentally Eucharistic but what does this mean, and how does it relate to the many challenges experienced by staff, patients, families, and volunteers who respond to the healing ministry of Christ.

An entryway into understanding Catholic Health Care as Eucharistic is provided by asking this question: What is the gift of Catholic Health care?

Before trying to answer this question, it will be helpful to deepen our understanding of the question itself.

When we ask ourselves, “What is the gift of Catholic Health Care?,” we are asking a question that is deeply rooted in the mystery of faith. This mystery asks us to consider the gift that is Christ, how “the Christ” is healing for us, and how Christ’s healing work is sustained in our world.  It is a question that invites us into the heart of God and situates us in a loving relationship with our sisters and brothers.

During Advent we ponder this reality and we are particularly cognizant of God who is Emmanuel – “God with us.”  This “God with us” has entered into human existence as a vulnerable child, completely defenceless  and dependent on others. This vulnerability is then mirrored in an even deeper way on the cross through which we discover that God is present in the deepest, darkest chasms of human suffering and death.

Catholic Health care – Eucharistic Health care – is healing, transformative, hope-filled and redemptive because we recognize that Christ is sacramentally present in the people we care for and in our service to them. Living in the night shifts, suffering, backbreaking care, dementia, bed pans, wounds, chronic illnesses, depression, staff shortages, anxious families, pressures and broken human condition is God – Emmanuel – Christ with us.

But God who is with us in the difficult and tragic circumstance of our service is not only in solidarity with us.  A Eucharistic understanding of Catholic Health Care recognizes that Christ’s body broken for us has become nourishment.

I can think of many examples of this, but a particularly poignant expression was made present to me in Fr. Syl Lewan’s dying and funeral. Fr. Syl suffered from dementia and his was a prolonged death during COVID-19.  Bonnie Roberts (a deeply faithful Catholic and retired nurse) was companion to Fr. Syl during this difficult time.  At one point, Bonnie shared with me that the restrictions associated with COVID required her to choose between attending Sunday Eucharist or remaining present to Fr. Syl.  She chose to remain present to Fr. Syl.

Bonnie did not separate herself from the Eucharist. She entered more deeply into the Eucharist.  Her vigilant presence to Fr. Syl and her eulogy at his funeral testified that this difficult journey was profound in grace and marked by God’s intimate presence. It was Eucharistic.

We can sometimes think of Catholic Health Care as a values-based healthcare option or a testament to the good work done by Catholic Sisters but a Eucharistic understanding of Catholic Health Care asks us to look deeper.  It is a concrete manifestation of God with us and an expression of the fullness of God’s saving power. As Eucharistic, it is the living, breathing body of Christ that brings healing to the suffering and an entrance way into eternal life for those who are dying.

It is gift.


The Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan (CHAS) was formed in 1943 to be a voice for Catholic hospitals and long-term care facilities, and to protect and promote Catholic health care in Saskatchewan. Peter Oliver serves as Executive Director of the provincial organization.