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Faithful support sees cancer patients through their difficult journey

He heals mission

In her career as a health care leader, Peg Tichacek is used to planning ahead, preparing long-term initiatives and laying the groundwork for projects. But when she was sunbathing at a Fourth of July barbecue and noticed a mass in her lower abdomen, nothing could have prepared her for what came next.

Ovarian cancer.

“Suddenly I was a patient: uneducated, inexperienced, vulnerable and scared,” says Peg, Via Christi’s chief mission integration officer. “I was occupied with getting my affairs in order and making treatment decisions as I lost my hair, my sense of control and my ability to ‘make everything all right’ with an administrative decision.”

Emotional and spiritual healing

Peg began medical treatment for her physical healing — and turned to her faith for emotional and spiritual healing. In addition to the prayers of her fellow parishioners, Peg received another great gift: Peggy Duick.

Peg and Peggy met while attending an early morning Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Wichita and had an immediate connection. Peggy became Peg’s companion throughout her cancer journey, often walking and praying with her, then introducing her to another parishioner with a similar cancer experience.   

“A grace came upon us as we shared our stories and prayer intentions,” says Peggy. “We found joy in helping one another, right here in our own church — all before 7 a.m.!”

As their friendship grew, Peg wanted to share her healing experience with others. She envisioned a mission where people would connect to others with similar sufferings and help each other heal during the journey through their mutual faith.

‘He Heals’ ministry is born           

Her vision turned into reality in April when Via Christi partnered with St. Thomas Aquinas to create “He Heals,” a ministry focused on healing the hurts of body, soul and spirit through the sacraments, prayer and stewardship.

He Heals consists of a Eucharistic adoration healing service, which includes Gospel readings of Jesus’ healing ministry, Anointing of the Sick for those eligible and benediction.

More than 100 parishioners attended the first He Heals service, led by Father Matt McGinness and Father Bernie Gorges. Fellow parishioners, including a physician, nurse and community leader, gave testimonies on the role faith plays in healing.

“In my heart and in my faith, I know that physicians do not heal patients,” says Mark Niederee, MD, a surgeon with Wichita Surgical Specialists and St. Thomas Aquinas parishioner. “God heals patients.”

After the service, He Heals attendees had the opportunity to connect with a St. Thomas “advocate,” a role inspired by Duick. Advocates support, encourage and communicate with fellow parishioners in need of healing. They also connect parishioners with fellow church members who are experiencing or managing similar illnesses and life conditions, or have similar wellness interests.

Via Christi now plans to expand the successful He Heals mission to other parishes and community organizations.

“Through the generous stewardship of Peggy and of so many others, I came to appreciate that Jesus heals,” says Peg. “And beyond that, he invites each of us to share in the healing as we come together in prayer and bring his healing presence to one another.”

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