Clad in their white coats, health professionals gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the annual White Mass Oct. 18, to pray together for their colleagues and patients with Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore.
“Often we’re in work environments where a health provider’s faith identity is not encouraged or valued. Here we share our challenges, our struggles and our joys,” said Dr. Shirley Reddoch, a faculty member at Johns Hopkins.
The White Mass, she said, enables professionals who would seldom meet to gather in fellowship and faith.
“That’s what keeps us going in times that are stressful,” she said, “especially times like this.”
Reddoch is president of the Baltimore Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, which sponsored the Mass. Typically held near the feast of St. Luke, patron saint of physicians, this year’s Mass was held on his feast day.
“We really appreciate what you’ve done to keep us safe and healthy,” said Father James Boric, the basilica’s rector, in welcoming doctors, nurses, other health care workers and medical students.
Archbishop Lori celebrated the Mass with concelebrants including Father Boric, Father Michael DeAscanis, pastor of St. Philip Neri in Linthicum Heights and the group’s chaplain, and three hospital chaplains: Fathers Louis Asobi, Rodney Eugene and Tom Malia.
In his homily – which focused on Jesus’ command to “repay to Caesar what is Caesar’s ” – Archbishop Lori said the Gospel should “remind us as citizens we have an obligation toward our country.”
He urged worshippers to build a just society, respect basic human freedoms, provide adequate health care, especially for the poor and vulnerable, welcome newcomers and seek racial equity.
“How precious are our rights, but how serious are our obligations,” Archbishop Lori said.
He spoke out against policies that treat humans as non-persons, create arbitrary limits of conscience rights in health care and require a religious litmus test to those who aspire to high office.
“We must be wary when everything in our society becomes politicized,” he said.
Because of the social distancing necessitated by COVID-19, reservations were required for the 10:45 a.m. Mass. The annual luncheon was canceled, but as usual, members gathered for the traditional photo afterward with Archbishop Lori.
Dr. Marie-Alberte Boursiquot, an Ellicott City internist, received applause for her national award as Distinguished Guardian of the Faith.
Dr. Joseph Marine, a Johns Hopkins Hospital cardiologist, said he came “to be in fellowship with our fellow health care providers, to hear a wonderful homily and to be inspired to continue our work.”
And, added Dr. Brian Macdonald, who practices internal medicine at Hopkins, “to remind us how to love God and neighbor as a physician. It’s the core of what we do.”
“It’s so special to see a community of health care providers come together for this Mass,” said Amanda Krow, a registered nurse, who works at St. Martin’s Home for the Aged in Catonsville and is discerning religious life.
Intercessions included prayers for health care workers, patients who died this past year, and Dr. Joseph Costa, of Mercy Medical Center and Linda Jordan, a registered nurse, of the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center, both of whom died of COVID-19, as well as deceased doctors Alberto Del Corro, Pablo Dibos and Hilary O’Herlihy.
“It’s important to pray for anyone who has suffered and especially for those who are caring for the sick and all the challenges they face every day,” said Little Sister of the Poor Laurence Mary, of St. Martin’s Home. “And we pray for a speedy end to the pandemic all over the world.”
“There is a common denominator in my mind between the medical profession and the church: passion and compassion – passion for life and compassion for our fellow man,” said Dr. Norbert Myslinski, a University of Maryland professor of neuroscience.
The Catholic Medical Association, founded in 1932, gathers medical professionals dedicated to the teachings of the Catholic Church in science and the practice of medicine. The Baltimore Guild was founded in 2002, according to Boursiquot, a past president of both the local and national organizations.
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