By James Ramos | Catholic News Service
HOUSTON (CNS) — After being hospitalized after suffering a stroke while praying the Stations of the Cross March 15, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was discharged March 20 from St. Joseph Medical Center in Houston and was transferred to a nearby rehabilitation program.
Doctors expect him to make a full recovery, according to a statement from the archdiocese released that day.
“I could not be more grateful to the truly wonderful doctors and nurses at St. Joseph’s for their expert care and compassion, which has helped hasten my way down the road to a full recovery,” Cardinal DiNardo said in the statement. “I am also doubly thankful for the many kind wishes and especially the prayers that have been directed toward my healing, which I can assure you are making a true difference. I look forward to getting back to work soon, and continuing the important work we have before us.”
During Fridays in Lent, in parishes around the world, the words “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world” are prayed during the Stations of the Cross.
In the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, the March 15 Stations of the Cross, which Cardinal DiNardo calls a “time-honored tradition of Lent,” carried a new meaning for the thousands who gathered in their parish churches on one evening for powerful united effort to pray for “healing and purification of the church.”
At the invitation of Cardinal DiNardo, thousands of people across the archdiocese — at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in downtown Houston to Huntsville to Galveston — prayed for a church that he says has been “lacerated” by the abuse scandal and for the “courageous witness” of victims “who have helped bring this painful history out of darkness into the light of Christ,” said Cardinal DiNardo.
At St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church in Spring, Texas, archdiocesan officials said 750 turned out for the prayer service. But no matter how many attended, their prayers were raised to God as one voice to bring healing to those affected by the clergy abuse scandal.
That evening, while praying and walking the Stations of the Cross that line the co-cathedral’s towering walls, it became clear that Cardinal DiNardo was not feeling well. By Station 6, Cardinal DiNardo reluctantly informed the congregation that he was not feeling well and was taken to a nearby hospital where he was diagnosed as having suffered a mild stroke, according to an archdiocesan statement.
Auxiliary Bishop George A. Sheltz continued to lead the Stations in Cardinal DiNardo’s place, a visible sign of the continuity of the leadership of the archdiocese.
By the next day, Cardinal DiNardo was “resting comfortably and conversing with associates, doctors and nurses,” the statement said. He remained hospitalized for a few more days of testing and observation before being released.
In the time since the incident, civic and city leaders, as well has bishops and ministry heads around the nation, have offered their prayers for Cardinal DiNardo. The USCCB in a news release, said it joined with the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese “in praying for the cardinal’s quick recovery.”
Earlier that day before he fell ill, Cardinal DiNardo gathered with the nearly 300 priests in the Archdiocese, both diocesan and religious, for a meeting with the pastoral leaders at St. Mary’s Seminary.
In the two-hour-long meeting, Cardinal DiNardo gave an address to the priests. The day also included a question-and-answer session with the cardinal, a Chaplet of Divine Mercy and a prayer service where Cardinal DiNardo prayed over the attending priests, or “messengers of his mercy” as he has previously called them, to be sent to their parishes to be united with him in prayer, especially for that evening.
In return, the priests — in what may as well have been an act of grace and the Holy Spirit considering what was to come later that day — raised their hands over Cardinal DiNardo to pray for him in his duties as cardinal and archbishop of the archdiocese.
The meditations of the Stations of the Cross used that night, alongside each Station’s prayer, were written by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI for the Way of the Cross service at the Colosseum in Rome in 2005.
Cardinal DiNardo had continued leading the Stations up to the Station 6, “Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus.”
Before leaving to seek medical care, he said the Station’s closing prayer.
“Lord, grant us restless hearts, hearts which seek your face. Keep us from the blindness of heart which sees only the surface of things. Give us the simplicity and purity which allow us to recognize your presence in the world,” Cardinal DiNardo prayed. “When we are not able to accomplish great things, grant us the courage which is born of humility and goodness.
Impress Your face on our hearts. May we encounter you along the way and show your image to the world.”
During his recovery, Cardinal DiNardo has assigned his USCCB duties to Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, vice president of the conference, as provided for in the USCCB bylaws.
Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Gomez were elected USCCB president and vice president, respectively, during the bishops’ annual fall general assembly in Baltimore in November 2016. They began their three-year terms at the close of the meeting.
The cardinal served as USCCB vice president for three years before being elected president. He has headed the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston since 2006, when as coadjutor archbishop, he immediately succeeded Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza when he retired. Then-Archbishop DiNardo was named a cardinal in 2007, making him the first cardinal from Texas.