October 21, 2014 // Local

Health care professionals encouraged to serve in the example of St. Giuseppe Moscati

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades talks with Imam Mohammad Sirajuddin of the Islamic Society of Michiana and Rabbi Steven Leapman, who serves as a staff therapist at the Samaritan Counseling Center, after the White Mass for medical personnel on Oct. 16, at St. Pius X Church in Granger.

By Christopher Lushis

GRANGER — “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades quoted these words from St. Peter to those present at the South Bend area White Mass to indicate the responsibilities of all who care for the sick and suffering to use their gifts of medical expertise to demonstrate love and respect for the dignity of each person.

The White Mass, celebrated on Oct. 16 at St. Pius X Church, is an annual celebration for all who work as doctors, nurses and health care personnel. This tradition was reinvigorated last year in the South Bend area of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, thanks in large part to the efforts of the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center and Sister Laureen M. Painter, their vice president of Mission Integration and Ministry.

The Gospel reading for the Mass was the proclamation of the Last Judgment, during which Jesus promises eternal life to those who serve Him in the persons of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill and the imprisoned. Bishop Rhoades remarked, “In the end, this is how we will be judged — on how much we have loved.”

Bishop Rhoades invited those present to look to the examples of the saints to witness how men and women have throughout history listened to those words and sought to orient their lives in service of the Gospel to express that love.

Specifically, Bishop Rhoades indicated that he wished to “touch upon the life a modern day saint whose legacy is not yet well known, but whose life is a concrete example of holiness lived in the medical profession. His name is Giuseppe Moscati, a physician, medical school professor and pioneer in the field of biochemistry. This Catholic physician, who lived a century ago, exemplifies the virtues that you who are health care workers are called to cultivate in your profession as guardians and servants of life, dedicated to the service of healing the sick and suffering.”

Bishop Rhoades said, “When Giuseppe Moscati attended medical school, he encountered an openly agnostic, amoral and anti-clerical environment. It could be considered a perilous place for a young Catholic. But Giuseppe avoided these distractions, studied diligently and practiced his faith fervently. In fact, during that time when he was surrounded by conditions adverse to the Catholic faith, his own faith deepened and he began to practice his faith even more conscientiously.”

Moscati’s resolve was evident when faced with opposition, as he emphatically defended his Catholic faith with the words: “Love truth; show yourself as you are, without pretenses and fears and without ceremonies. And if the truth causes you persecution, accept it, and if it causes some torment, bear it, and if for truth’s sake you should sacrifice yourself and your life, be strong in your sacrifice.”

Bishop Rhoades exclaimed, “What an example he is for medical students today who may face adversity and antagonism for upholding the sanctity of life, for rejecting abortion and euthanasia, and for being faithful to the moral law. It takes much courage today in medical schools and medical practice to stand up for the life and dignity of human life, for the truth about human sexuality, and also for natural procreation against those interventions which separate procreation from conjugal union.”

Bishop Rhoades elaborated, “Dr. Moscati’s medical practice was imbued with a Catholic vision of health care and the human person, as he saw his patients as persons with God-given dignity.  He would seek out the poor and the homeless, whom he considered his favorite patients, and would never accept any fee from them, as I know many of you here voluntarily and without pay treat patients who are poor or uninsured. This service is a witness to the Gospel, a witness to the love of Jesus for the poor and the suffering.”

This witness is aided through participation in the sacramental life of the Church. Bishop Rhoades revealed that St. Moscati “would receive Holy Communion every day and say a prayer before examining a patient, engaging in research or teaching a class.”

Bishop Rhoades concluded by invoking the intercession of St. Giuseppe Moscati upon all who work in the field of health care today and reminding those present “to always have in your hearts the words of Jesus: ‘I was ill and you cared for Me.’”

He also thanked those who assisted and helped to plan the Mass, including Al Gutierrez, president and CEO of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, Sister Painter, diocesan Family Life directors Fred and Lisa Everett, the St. Pius X choir, and concelebrants: Mgsr. Bill Schooler, pastor of St. Pius X, Holy Cross Father James Foster, M.D., director of the Notre Dame Center for Health Sciences Advising, Father Henry Byekwaso and Father Aloysius Ezenwata, pastoral chaplains at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, Msgr. Michael Heintz, rector of St. Matthew Cathedral, and Deacon John Tugman, of St. Pius X.

After Mass, a multi-faith panel discussion was held on the topic of suffering. The presentation, entitled “Human Suffering and the Faith Factor: the Jewish, Christian and Islamic Perspectives,” facilitated by Sister Painter, included participants Rabbi Steven Leapman, who serves as a staff therapist at the Samaritan Counseling Center, Msgr. Heintz, and Imam Mohammad Sirajuddin of the Islamic Society of Michiana. Together, they discussed the role of suffering within each faith tradition, how suffering can be approached from a health care perspective, and the ways suffering invites each person to a greater sense of love, compassion and outreach, both to those within a common community of faith, as well as to those who do not share the same beliefs.

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