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BRIGHTON —“I’m happy to come here with my own steam because last time I was here I had to be carried in,”Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley told a group of physicians gathered for the White Mass Oct. 14 at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center. The Mass and following banquet, held annually in October, is sponsored by the Guild of St. Luke and honors St. Luke, the patron saint of physicians.
The Scriptures and several Fathers of the Church identify St. Luke as a physician.
The archbishop, who was recently hospitalized for an acute inner ear infection, spoke of St. Luke, as “a man of such compassion.”He said that in his Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles, “we see how St. Luke’s compassion made him focus on Jesus’compassion and love for the little ones, for the sick, the poor and those who are forgotten.”
In the Gospel reading of the Mass, St. Luke writes of how Jesus sent out the 72 disciples —representing the 72 nations listed in Genesis —and stressing the universal love of God, said archbishop O’Malley in hi homily. “He is writing his Gospel very much for the gentile Christians,”the archbishop continued. “This shows how God’s love extends first to Israel, then to all the nations of the earth.”
The disciples were “bearers of peace,”sent to heal the sick and tell them the kingdom of God is near, he said. “Now it is our turn,”the archbishop said. “The Lord has commissioned us with a sense of urgency to make His kingdom visible by showing His universal love and compassion…to show by our compassion and solidarity that the kingdom of God is at hand.”
Approximately 75 people attended a dinner, which followed the Mass. Among those in attendance was Dr. E. Joanne Angelo, a psychiatrist, who has been a member of the Guild of St. Luke, an archdiocesan organization of Catholic physicians, for nine years.
“Catholics need an association, a spokesperson for Christian medical ethics and excellence in medical care,”said Angelo, who also serves on the Pontifical Academy for Life in Rome.
“Catholic doctors have a leadership role in bringing compassionate care to all people. The Mass and the St. Luke Guild is a great source of grace and a source of confidence for me. It also helps in networking with other like-minded physicians,”she said.
The Mass and dinner is also a place for young people to find mentors, said Angelo. A number of medical students attended the event for the first time. Sarah Mui, a second year medical student at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester and the student leader of the Christian medical and dental association at her school, found the archbishop’s words about St. Luke helpful and was encouraged by the presence of so many doctors.
“In our very stressful and very busy lives, it’s so nice to see doctors being Catholic and being doctors,”she said.
Addressing the medical students was Dr. Gerald Corcoran, vice president of the Catholic Medical Association, who told them they do not have to sacrifice their faith for their profession.
“You’re not imposing your faith by counseling people against abortion, assisted suicide, or in vitro fertilization,”he stated, saying natural law, which dictates all human action prohibits such acts. “Don’t sacrifice anything to the god of medicine. Maintain your faith.”
Each year at the dinner the St. Martin de Porres Award is presented to a physician who has displayed great care and compassion in his or her work. Dr. John Consoli, who has been healing and ministering to the poor and neglected in the Dominican Republic since the early 1980s was this year’s recipient. In addition to his medical work, Consoli, his wife and their eight children conducted First Communion and confirmation classes to the people there. Recently a group of 30 young people from the archdiocese traveled to the Dominican Republic with the Consoli family to repair chapels in the country.
The night’s guest speaker, Gene Diamond, regional CEO of the Sisters of St. Francis Health Services, Inc., with hospitals located in Illinois and Indiana, spoke on the topic, “Preserving, Protecting and Defending the Identity of the Roman Catholic Hospital in the Middle of a Culture War.”
“We are in the middle of a culture war…and the Catholic Church is on the front lines of that war,”he said. “There cannot be a truce between the culture of life and the culture of death. It is a war that must be won.”
The St. Francis Health Care System began in 1875 and was incorporated in 1974. Today the organization is a $1.5 billion health care system with 16,000 employees, Diamond said. Their facilities are in the top 25 percent of Catholic hospitals in the amount of charity care they provide.
“As you can see there is no fundamental incompatibility between the profession of your faith and temporal success,”he said.
He stated that “Catholics make a Catholic institution great,”and presented a slide-show on how the hospitals he manages manifest their Catholic identity. “We are striving to be bound fully to the Church,”he said.
Employees at the hospitals are all oriented to the mission of the healthcare system, which is “Continuing Christ’s ministry in Our Franciscan Tradition.”They are also taught about St. Francis and encouraged to make a pilgrimage to Assisi in Italy. Chapels have daily Mass and at the request of employees, eucharistic adoration. A San Damiano crucifix adorns the walls of every hospital room and religious art and stained glass windows are “visual reminders of faith,”he said.
Employees also started the Center of Hope, a sexual assault unit, to provide immediate help to victims. An employee initiative that has received a lot of attention is their Respect Life Celebration in which 4,000 crosses made by hospital maintenance workers are displayed in an open area to represent the 4,000 abortions that are performed each year.
Attendee Owen O’Malley agreed with Diamond that we are living during a difficult time for the Church. “The whole society has become a culture of death,”he said. “We need to have a Catholic presence to transform it back to a culture of life.”