TRENTON, NJ - In observance of World Day of the Sick, area health care providers and their spouses are invited to a Mass, sponsored by the Diocese of Trenton and celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. in St. Robert Bellarmine Church, 61 Georgia Rd., Freehold.

An appreciation dinner will follow in the parish hall, compliments of the Knights and Dames of Malta.

The Mass, during which Bishop O’Connell will bless the hands of health care workers is held in recognition of the tireless work of physicians, nurses, mental health professionals and healthcare institution administrators who bring hope and healing to the sick in the hospitals, hospices, nursing homes and other medical facilities throughout Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

This year marks the 19th annual celebration of World Day of the Sick, which was instituted in 1992 by Pope John Paul II, and is celebrated each year on Feb. 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The pope had selected the feast day honoring Mary’s appearance in Lourdes, France, because the shrine now erected there has come to symbolize “the hope and the grace’’ of those who accept suffering and make it an offering for salvation.

The late pontiff proposed World Day of the Sick as “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering for the good of the Church and of reminding everyone to see in his sick brother or sister the face of Christ who, by suffering, dying and rising, achieved the salvation of mankind” (Letter Instituting the World Day of the Sick).

In a message for the 2011 World Day of the Sick, Pope Benedict XVI thanked the many thousands of Catholic health workers and volunteers who help care for the sick and elderly, and called on civil authorities “to invest more in health care systems that can assist and support the suffering, especially the poorest and the most needy.” The pope also appealed to all young people to recognize Christ in the afflicted and to “create bridges of love and solidarity, so that no one may feel alone.

Earlier in the day, Bishop O’Connell will visit several hospitals in the diocese, where he will pray with staff and anoint patients who seek it.

Seating is limited for the post-Mass dinner and reservations are required.

Contact Pat Martin, administrative assistant, diocesan Office of Pastoral Care, 609-406-7400, ext. 5607 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..