World Health Day 2021 Reflection, Wednesday, April 7

By Julie Behm Carter, Vice President, Mission Services – St. Mary’s Health Care System, Athens, Georgia

When I send Christmas cards and birthday cards to friends and family, I often close by wishing them a happy, healthy year.  On this World Health Day, I find myself thinking about what it means to have a healthy year.  

COVID-19 is certainly top of mind for all of us and I know I have prayed for protection from the virus.  And yet, when I wish my loved ones a happy, healthy year, I realize I am wishing more for them.  I also want them to live in a clean and safe environment, to have fulfilling relationships and to find work opportunities that give them purpose and challenge them to use their gifts.  Basically, I pray that they are able to flourish in every way.  I think we all want our loved ones to be healthy in this way — physically, mentally, and emotionally.

World Health Day is a global observance on April 7 each year that marks the anniversary of the World Health Organization, founded in 1948.  Its constitution recognizes “health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” [emphasis added] In other words, it adopts a view of the whole person that has always been at the center of Catholic health care, which strives to care for body, mind and spirit in every interaction with our patients and residents.

It is this view of health that propels us beyond the walls of our hospitals and into communities to creatively address food insecurity or housing shortages.

It is the reason we take on the hard work of addressing disparities in health care. 

It is reflected in our Core Value of Reverence, as we honor the inherent dignity of every person. 

And it is prominent in our Mission Statement that we serve together in the spirit of the Gospel as a compassionate and transforming healingpresence within our communities.

What is the model the Gospel offers? The Lord Jesus went about doing good works and healing sickness and infirmity of every kind. He restored vision and speech, stopped the flow of blood, and banished fevers. He also showed us the healing, restorative power of companionship, inclusion, mercy, forgiveness and non-violence.  

And so we pray ~

Divine Healer, Author of all life,

Infuse us with renewed energy to continue our healing mission.  Guide us to see clearly the needs of those we serve.  Help us to understand that health is more than the absence of disease.  Grant us wisdom in using our resources and talents to heal body, mind and spirit.  Bless all those who labor to bring about the flourishing of this one human family.

In your holy name we pray,


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