‘We’re All Exhausted’: Catholic Health Care Providers Find Spiritual Strength at White Mass

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Dr Shirley Reddoch (front bench) and Dr Marie-Alberte Boursiquot (second bench) stand during White Mass on October 17, 2021 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. (Courtesy of Philip Laubner for the Baltimore Guild, Catholic Medical Association)

One of Dr Marie-Alberte Boursiquot’s long-time patients, a 55-year-old woman, had a heart attack on October 11 and was essentially brain dead. Almost every night of that week, the doctor consoled his patient’s daughter, preparing her for the inevitable.

Five days later, the Boursiquot team had to stop all life support measures, as there was no significant expectation of recovery.

“I couldn’t save my patient,” Boursiquot said, “but I was able to share the love of Christ with his daughter and help her carry her cross.”

Boursiquot was one of a hundred people who gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore on October 17 for the White Mass, named after the white coats as doctors, students in medicine and health professionals were encouraged to wear. to the celebration.

The annual event includes members of the Baltimore Guild, Catholic Medical Association, and is always scheduled close to the Oct. 18 feast of St. Luke, patron saint of physicians.

For Boursiquot, parishioner of the basilica, and other health professionals, the liturgy was an opportunity to pray and reflect on the many challenges they faced during the coronavirus pandemic.

Boursiquot said that she offered most of her prayers to Eucharistic adoration before the White Mass. She also said she would have a mass for the rest of the souls celebrated for all patients lost in the past year, regardless of their religious affiliation.

“I think what we have as Catholic physicians is that we have an appreciation for the beauty of suffering,” said the internist at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “We know we can offer it and in doing so, there is hope.”

One of the most difficult challenges she has faced has been having to admit a number of her COVID-19 patients, she said. She is thankful that most of them survived, but not all.

“COVID-19 has worn us all out,” Boursiquot said of his fellow doctors.

Dr Robert Ray Redfield Jr., (right) former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and parishioner of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland, speaks with medical professionals after the White Mass on October 17, 2021 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. (Courtesy of Philip Laubner for the Baltimore Guild, Catholic Medical Association)

Dr Mary Ann Sorra, a parishioner of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ellicott City and an obstetrics and gynecology specialist affiliated with Ascension Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, said she too had faced challenges during the pandemic.

“When people said ‘heroes work here’,” Sorra said, “they almost made me cry because it didn’t sound heroic. We didn’t know how to take care of people.

Sorra, who said she prayed throughout the day, offered special prayers for the patients who would die alone in quarantine, “so that they would know that our Lord and Our Blessed Mother were with them, holding them back. main, ”she said.

Dr Shirley Reddoch, a St. Louis parishioner in Clarksville and a pediatric hematology-oncology specialist affiliated with Johns Hopkins Medicine, said many doctors were accompanying patients through their “difficult times and feelings of isolation” during the pandemic.

As former president of the Baltimore Guild, Catholic Medical Association term 2020-2021, she recognized the need for fellowship among Catholic physicians.

Carol Thelen, a parishioner at Mount Calvary Catholic Church in Baltimore and a family nurse practitioner with a location at Mercy Medical Center in Lutherville, said one of the biggest challenges during the pandemic was caring for patients not sick enough to be hospitalized. She said telemedicine has become very handy for keeping in touch with them.

Her family took care to take precautions to avoid contracting the virus and potentially exposing her patients, she said.

“My husband learned to buy everything online,” Thelen said. “He stopped going out to do anything unnecessary and we did all of our leisure time outside.”

Healthcare professionals pray after receiving Communion during White Mass on October 17, 2021 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. ( Priscila Gonzalez from Doran/ CR manager)

After the White Mass, there was a blessing for the care providers and the installation of the officers for the BG-CMA term 2022-2023: Sorra, president; Dr Michael Erdek, vice-president; Dr Christine Sybert, secretary; and Reddoch, treasurer. Dr Robert Ray Redfield Jr., former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and parishioner of Mary Our Queen Cathedral in Homeland, chatted with his fellow medical professionals near the grand portico of the basilica.

In his homily, Father Michael DeAscanis, pastor of Saint-Louis in Clarksville and of Saint-François d’Assise in Fulton as well as the exceptional chaplain of the Guild of the Catholic Medical Association 2021 in Johns Hopkins, thanked all the providers. care for their resilient work during the pandemic, for “not giving up” despite the risks, and for responding to the call to serve.

Father DeAscanis celebrated mass with the concelebrants Father James Boric, rector of the basilica; Father Louis Asobi, vice-president for mission integration at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Towson; Missionary of Saint Paul, Father Augustine Inwang, pastor of the Catholic Community of the Transfiguration in Baltimore and Assistant Chaplain of Mercy Medical Center; and Father Joséphite Leo Udeagu, chaplain of St. Agnes Medical Center.

The Catholic Medical Association Awards Committee has recognized the Baltimore Guild – CMA as the recipient of the 2021 St. Luke’s Guild Award.

“Science teaches what you can do,” Father DeAscanis told the congregation, “and the church teaches what you must do.”

Email Priscila González de Doran at pdoran@CatholicReview.org

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