“COLORADO SPRINGS. Before Father Larry Solan, pastor of St. Patrick Parish, took a leave of absence to have surgery for cancer last July, he made an unusual request: he asked everyone in the parish to write him a note with something they wanted him to pray for during his recovery.
“The idea of a Cancer Mass came from what Father Larry learned as he read the notes,” said Andrew Moulds, St. Patrick liturgy coordinator. The Mass was celebrated Oct. 29 at St. Patrick and offered a message of divine comfort and solidarity with suffering as well as a challenge to spread the good news of eternal life through Christ.
After some routine blood tests last spring, Father Solan was found to have elevated levels of PSA (Prostate-specific Antigen) in his blood, which led to a biopsy of six sections of his prostate gland. Each of the sections tested positive for cancer, so six weeks later at Penrose Hospital he underwent a prostatectomy.
“It was robotic surgery. They made six holes in my abdomen. I was home the next day. It was semi-painless, a very fast recovery,” said Father Solan. “I am saying this because I want to encourage other men about this. My doctor was confident that I would recover completely.” Since the surgery in July, Solon has had two blood tests, each of which showed zero PSA.
“It was while I was at home getting better that my eyes were opened to the hurt and woundedness of the parish,” Father Solan said. “I read pages of prayers for me. Many people asked me to pray for people in their families who were affected by cancer, who were taking care of people with cancer, or who had lost people to cancer. In my ministry, I worked with these families for years, but facing it myself, my compassion level was raised.” He suggested the parish sponsor a Cancer Mass.
“The Catholic Church is a church of healing,” he said, “so why not offer a Mass and the sacrament of healing to those critically ill.”
“The parish was very supportive of the Mass,” said Moulds. “People — staff and clergy — asked how they could make this happen. I was particularly impressed with how many priests came.” In addition to Father Solan, Fathers Brian Mohan, Mike Butler, Paul Wicker and Jacob Ghebrechristos concelebrated, with Deacon Dick Bowles assisting and a full choir. About 250 people attended. Lavender elastic bracelets were given away with the saying on them, “No one fights alone.”
Among those attending the Mass were Tara and Lyle Bauman of Littleton, along with their sons Thomas, Dominic and Kolbe. Thomas, 4 ½, is in treatment for brain cancer.
“It was a relief to hear the cause of his dizziness and headaches but also a challenge because we knew, as much as we possibly could at the time, the long road that lay ahead,” Tara Bauman said. He’s had five rounds of chemotherapy and is about halfway through radiation treatments.
The Baumans, parishioners at St. Mary in Littleton, had spent the previous weekend in Colorado Springs and attended Sunday Mass at St. Patrick, where they were surprised to hear the announcement about an upcoming Mass for cancer patients, families, survivors, and anyone affected by cancer. They said they knew God was calling them to bring the family down for the Mass the following Saturday.
“Be at peace,” Father Solan exhorted those present for the Cancer Mass. “Let nothing on this earth shake your faith in the Resurrection — nothing — not cancer, not sickness, not AIDS, not climate change, not disaster. Let nothing shake your faith in the gift of peace. Not as the world sees, but as our hearts see and trust. ‘I consider the sufferings of the moment to be nothing compared to the promises of heaven,’” he said, quoting St. Paul.
“You know, we pray — for freedom from illness, freedom from cancer and all sicknesses, freedom from suffering,” said Father Solan, “and sometimes we say, God did not answer that; my husband, my wife, my daughter, my son died — here. That’s the difference. We of faith know that even if we die, we will be free from that sickness and that suffering, eventually — that our prayers will be answered — eventually.”
“It was such a beautiful liturgy,” said Bauman. “Our son Thomas received the Holy Spirit again in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. The Mass was another testament of God’s love and care for Thomas and for us at every stage of this cross.”
“Father Solan said that the Cancer Mass will be an annual event, and possibly will be offered more often than that.