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The Most Rev. David L. Ricken is the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay.

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Gratitude for our health care heroes

By Bishop David Ricken | August 12, 2020

Every generation of young people seems to have to go through some trial — world wars, economic depressions, social and cultural revolutions. These experiences become formative for the people who live through them, shaping their outlook on themselves and on the world. This will certainly be true for this generation of young adults and their families as their lives will forever be shaped by their experience with this pandemic.

Very few people living today have seen such a trial as a pandemic, but it is having devastating effects on individuals, on families and on our nation. While so many people have been affected in so many ways, the health care professionals — doctors, nurses, and staffs in hospitals, clinics, and nursing and assisted living homes — have truly been on the front lines in this pandemic. That’s why we decided to do a special section dedicated to health care workers in gratitude to them.

I remember my visit to the hospitals and nursing homes last April. I could not go into the facilities but was able to take the Blessed Sacrament to bless them, both Catholic facilities and other public or private facilities. This was a real blessing to me and hopefully to those whom we blessed. People stood at the windows, and staff and patients waved as we departed from them. I will never forget that day.

Some of our priests and deacons and parish staff processed through their parish neighborhoods and blessed parishioners in their homes. Some of our younger priests received special training to visit parishioners near death with full PPE gear in order to grant them the apostolic pardon and the last rites.

However, we know that none of this compares to the heroism of our health care workers. So many have worked longer hours, put themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19, and sacrificed time with their families and loved ones. They did this out of a genuine care and love for their patients, and in doing so, they witnessed to the love that Jesus has for each of us. As it says in the Gospel of John, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15: 13). The selfless love shown by our health care workers is truly heroic and inspiring. Please pray in great gratitude for them.

In addition to praying for them, we can also do our part to make their lives easier. Specifically, we can follow the guidelines to slow and stop the spread of this disease. This includes washing our hands frequently, maintaining distance from people, wearing masks when required and staying home when we are sick. I know this is a change to our normal ways of life, but making these simple sacrifices is a way we can thank and honor the health care heroes on the front lines.

Our battle with this pandemic is not over. We need to be prudent, yet not be afraid. Fear and seclusion is also precarious for people’s health. Lean on the Holy Spirit for courage and wisdom and let us strive to be model disciples of Jesus as we go through these times of trial.

Finally, let us be grateful for the pure gift of each day. As my mom, a registered nurse who served in the Navy during WWII, used to say, “Your health is your wealth.” May we thank God each day for the gift of our health and for the selfless nurses, doctors and health care professionals who make our health their priority!

Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.

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