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Jerry Baughman, left, visits with Father Dave Reeson, pastor of St. Columbkille Parish in Papillion, Kathryn Derby and Deacon Dave Graef of St. Columbkille at Granville Villa in La Vista. Photo by Susan Szalewski/for the Catholic Voice.

Clergy offer sacraments, advice and support

Keeping healthy – body and soul – is important, two archdiocesan priests said, and the two types of health are intertwined.

People who exercise, venture outdoors and eat wisely often gain a sense of calm from those activities, which can make prayer easier, drawing them closer to God, said Father Jerry Connealy, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Stanton and chaplain at Faith Regional Center in Norfolk.

"When you’re at peace, it’s easier to connect with God," he said.

And studies have shown that people who are active in their faith – who pray and go to church – tend to be happier and healthier in body, said Father Dave Reeson, pastor of St. Columbkille Parish in Papillion.

Relying on the Lord helps reduce stress, both priests said. Many times throughout the Bible, God encourages people to be at peace, not to worry or be afraid, Father Reeson said.

"That’s good to remember, you’ll live a little longer," he said. "Worry doesn’t add a moment to your life. It causes us to lose sleep and get headaches and ulcers."

Kathryn Derby and Jerry Baughman, residents of Granville Villa, a senior living center in La Vista, said they stay spiritually healthy as Catholics, helped in part by regular visits from Father Reeson, other clergy and parishioners at St. Columbkille.

Both also use wheelchairs, but still find ways to be physically active. In organized activities, they kick large playground balls around, and stretch and flex their arms and hands. Bicycle-like pedals designed for hands give them a cardio workout while strengthening their arms. Other activities, such as bingo and crafts, keep them occupied and healthy, they said.

Deborah Willcox – a registered dietitian and licensed medical nutrition therapist at St. Joseph Retirement Community and St. Francis Memorial Hospital, both in West Point – also sees a connection between physical and spiritual health.

The people who go to Mass and receive Jesus in the Eucharist each day at St. Joseph seem to thrive physically, said Willcox, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Fremont. They keep their bodies and souls nourished, she said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that people have bodies and souls, but the two are "truly one."

And the Bible says the body cannot be neglected.

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?" St. Paul wrote. "Therefore, glorify God in your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Father Connealy said people have a moral responsibility, at least to some degree, to take care of their bodies. And "everybody does that differently."

Going for a walk outside and enjoying nature can help physically, spiritually and emotionally, Father Connealy said. He said he walks or jogs at least five days a week, as early in the day as his schedule allows.

"Exercise has always been a key part of my life," he said.

Father Connealy said he enjoys camping every year and "just being outside with the Lord."

Father Reeson said St. Columbkille offers a "slew of exercise programs" for parishioners and others that helps them be part of the faith community.

As for his own routine, Father Reeson said, he has exercised regularly throughout his life, especially during his 31 years in the Air Force, when running, push-ups and sit-ups were required.

His exercise isn’t as regimented now, but he tries to watch what he eats and enjoys walking, Father Reeson said. Those walks give him time to pray and think about homilies and "the beauty of nature, God’s work."

"You can’t help but experience the beauty of God’s creation when you go for a walk," especially this time of year, he said.

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