November 3, 2010 // Local

Healthcare workers to ‘respect the dignity of the human person’

Dr. Jose Bufill talks with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades following the White Mass Oct. 26, at Moreau Seminary Chapel.

By Jodi Magallanes

SOUTH BEND — Physicians, nurses, researchers and other healthcare personnel can have no distinction between their personal beliefs and their professional lives, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades told a group of healthcare professionals on Oct. 26.

Bishop Rhoades addressed members of the medical community during and after a White Mass at Moreau Seminary Chapel. The Mass and subsequent address took place in observance of the Oct. 18 feast day of St. Luke. The actual feast day of the doctor, apostle, author and evangelist passed while Bishop Rhoades was in Rome for the canonization of St. André Bessette.

In a welcome statement before the Mass began, Dr. Walt Halloran lifted up the example of St. Luke as a physician who took on a spiritual role after being called to do so by Jesus. Halloran asked St. Luke, the patron saint of physicians, to provide the professionals present with “the wisdom, strength and humanity” to do their jobs in a spiritual manner.

During his homily, Bishop Rhoades added that healthcare workers are called to be the messengers of God’s hope.

“Today I want to emphasize that your work is more than a profession — it’s a vocation. You’re called to be the guardians of life … you’re called to be instruments of God’s holy power and God’s passion,” he said.

In the midst of a “growing culture of death,” Bishop Rhoades asked them to become countercultural and to give their patients the best care possible, “with utmost respect for their dignity, with respect for the Church and with respect for life.”

During a brief presentation after the Mass, Dr. Jose Bufill traced the history of the medical profession back to the first time people started caring for those afflicted by infection instead of simply abandoning them.

“We have inherited their vocation. Now we have more tools at our disposal,” he noted — but as Catholics we also “have the responsibility to respond to the pessimistic view that humans are not loved by God.”

Bishop Rhoades stated that the vocation and mission of healthcare workers is to guard and to serve life. He called them to see their patients not as clinical cases, but as neighbors, brothers and sisters, reminding them that the Church associates their profession with the work of Jesus Himself.

Several Church documents, including Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae,” also require of healthcare workers that they be guided by the Church’s teachings — including those on moral ethics.

“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that our Catholic healthcare workers study and know these documents. We are not the arbiters of anyone’s life or death. God is the sole breath of life,” he said. “The Church needs you in your profession to bear witness to the sanctity of life.”

Kathy Hawley of South Bend said she has attended the White Mass several times because she enjoys worshipping with other professionals who share her goal. She first learned about the special Mass when her former healthcare employer was asked to participate.

Hawley came again this year, she said, because “you as the healthcare worker, you are that person who brings that special peace to people who are suffering. It’s nice to be recognized for that, and get a new energy to keep on doing it.”

Bishop Rhoades served on United States Conference of Catholic committees that address health care and sanctity of life issues.

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