Caregivers receive blessing

The annointing process is rooted in a biblical practice intended to heal and purify.


HANDS BLESSED: Rose Wilkins of Youngstown, center, was one of a dozen people who turned out Monday for the first Blessing of the Hands service, presented by SouthernCare, a hospice organization. She had her hands blessed by Dr. Nicholas Mager, right, pastor of the Youngstown First Presbyterian Church, as Sylvia Beard, SouthernCare chaplain, assisted.

By Bob Jackson

YOUNGSTOWN — When Rose Wilkins heard about an upcoming service during which the hands of caregivers would be annointed with oil, she knew it was something she needed to attend.

“It’s just a relief to be around other people who are going through the same things as you, you know?” the 49-year-old East Side woman said. “Sometimes it seems like we’re out there all alone.”

Wilkins was one of a dozen people who turned out Monday for the first Blessing of the Hands service presented by SouthernCare, a hospice organization based in Birmingham, Ala., that has a local office in Youngstown. Danielle Procopio, community relations director, said she got the idea from a SouthernCare chapter in South Carolina and decided to try it here.

The service was planned for now because November is Hospice Month, she said. It took place in the Chestnut Room at Youngstown State University’s Kilcawley Center.

The service included musical selections by local group Three:16, inspirational readings and prayers and culiminated in the annointing of the hands of caregivers with oil. The blessing was open to all caregivers, both professional and private.

“We just want to give them a blessing for the work that they do,” Procopio said. “The work is not always easy or glamorous, but it’s necessary.”

Wilkins said she has cared for her 93-year-old father, who has prostate cancer, since 1993. She had been living in Chicago, where she worked as a hairdresser, before she returned to Youngstown to care for him, she said. When she saw a notice about the blessing of the hands service in The Vindicator, it got her attention.

“I thought it might just be for people who work in nursing homes or hospitals or things like that,” she said. “I’m so glad it was open to anyone.”

Sylvia Beard, SouthernCare chaplain, said the process of annointing people with oil is based on a biblical practice and is intended to heal and purify. She asked God’s blessing on the oil before it was placed on the hands of the caregivers by Dr. Nicholas Mager, pastor of the Youngstown First Presbyterian Church, and Pastor Lucille Orr, who works with the Life Care Ministry Center in Canfield.

Also among those who attended was Jon Williams of Warren, who said he is indebted to Southern-Care for the care it provided for his mother in the months before her death from Alzheimer’s disease some six months ago. She was 82.

“It was just through destiny and fate that I’m here, “ said Williams, 57. He said he stopped at the SouthernCare offices earlier that day to pick up some information and found out about the service. Even though he no longer has to care for a sick loved one, Williams said he attended the service because he so strongly supports the mission and work of SouthernCare.

“They are angels on earth,” he said. “They brought me light in my darkness and joy in my sorrow.”

Procopio said she was midly disappointed at the light turnout Monday, but was not surprised.

“It’s our first attempt at doing this, so we really didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “But we would like to do this now every November, and we’re already making plans for next year. It’s a growing process.”

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