Some of the smallest patients at Alexian Brothers Health Center in Hoffman Estates had a special visitor Monday.
Cardinal Francis George spent the afternoon walking the halls of the new Women & Children's Hospital, sprinkling holy water on the doors of those in intensive care, blessing the doctors and nurses and personally praying with many families, including women in labor and sick children.
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The cardinal was unable to attend the March blessing of the new hospital because he was in Vatican City for the election of Pope Francis, so he made a special stop at the Hoffman Estates facility Monday to bless the families and staff members and pray with some of its newest patients.
"Let us ask for God's blessing on all those who are patients in the Alexian Brothers Women and Children's Hospital and on all the staff who will devote themselves to caring for these patients and their families," he said during the blessing.
George stopped to pray with pregnant women in between contractions and blessed the rosary beads of a father-to-be along the way. He asked one couple in Spanish if this would be a first child for their family and if they were ready for all the blessings coming their way.
Maria Mora, of Carpentersville, was at Alexian Brothers because she started going into labor prematurely with what will be her sixth child. George prayed with her and reassured her by noting that he also was born premature and he turned out OK.
"I grew up Catholic, and I've praised him, but I never thought I would meet him and not like this," said Mora, in tears after George left her bedside.
When Dylan and Mackenzie Bockstahler were born earlier this month at only 27 weeks, each weighing less than 3 pounds. On Monday when George stopped in their room, parents Shellie Ptak and Jeremy Bockstahler of Bartlett said the twins were doing better and slowly putting on weight but would probably be at the hospital until July, their expected due date.
"It's always amazing when you see how fragile they are," said George as he stopped to bless the twins.
Several new parents said they were grateful for the cardinal's words and prayers.
"It meant the world, specially with their start, they need all the prayers they can get," said Kim Jones of Elk Grove Village, whose twins, Quinn and Alexandra, also were born premature last week.
"Someone once said that love and pain are twins, but they have a hard time recognizing each other once in a while," said George, who has struggled with his own health issues in recent years. A golf cart helped him get around long hallways, but he never hesitated to walk into each room or stop for a picture with nurses and new parents.
"This is a great service to bring a women and children's hospital of this caliber to the area," he said. "Here they will be not only cared for, but they will be loved."