Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Following the White Mass Oct. 27, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory greets, l-r, Theresa Kim, Cecilia Ryu, Irena “Mimi” Park and Sister Assumpta Ogbedeagu, of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Mercy, who is completing an internship rotation at Atlanta hospitals. Park, a pharmacist, Ryu, a registered nurse, and Kim, a certified nursing assistant, belong to Korean Martyrs Catholic Church, Doraville.


Archbishop prays for medical community to balance skills, tenderness

By JEAN DRISKELL, Special to the Bulletin | Published November 12, 2015

ATLANTA—Cold, fog and drizzling rain did not deter the physicians, nurses, medical technicians, office staff and others who came to celebrate their calling to the health care profession at the third annual White Mass.

Named for the white coats worn by medical personnel, the White Mass is held around the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, believed to have been a physician, who is the patron saint of physicians and surgeons. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated the Mass Oct. 27 at the Cathedral of Christ the King.

“People who serve the health needs of people in this local community certainly do need the celestial protection of St. Luke,” Archbishop Gregory said in his homily. He also said that those in health care “deserve our constant prayers of gratitude and support for the healing mission they kindly provide for all of us.”

“Our contemporary scientific and technological health care advances are stunning and vitally important,” he said, “but so too are the essential interpersonal skills of comforting and healing the hearts of those who depend upon our medical professionals.”

Archbishop Gregory said that scientific advancements can pose conflicts with professionals’ Catholic faith, not only in the area of medical moral issues but also in the social justice call to provide medical care to the poor and uninsured.

“Luke’s Gospel passage for this evening’s Mass reminds us once again of the transformative power of little things, mustard seeds and bits of yeast,” he said. “These tiny elements can develop into great things that far surpass their small beginnings.”

“As medical professionals, you know how a kind word, a small gesture, a simple smile can work wonders in the lives of people who are your patients,” Archbishop Gregory said.

He continued, “As people who heal others, you know that a physical illness imposes a spiritual burden on a person and human tenderness is as important as any drug or antibiotic.”

“Your professional skills are only enhanced by your spiritual wisdom and strength of heart and character,” Archbishop Gregory said, “and will serve you as effectively as the scientific miracles that you routinely work in the healing of the entire person.”

The Archdiocese of Atlanta, in association with the Atlanta Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, established in 1996, organizes the White Mass. The Atlanta Guild is part of the national Catholic Medical Association, established in 1932, which is the largest organization of Catholic physicians in the United States.

‘Very special to be prayed for specifically’

“We hold a White Mass every year around the feast of St. Luke for Catholic physicians, nurses, and other health care workers who are providing patient care,” said Dr. Kathleen M. Raviele. A member of St. Stephen the Martyr Church, Lilburn, she is the past president of the national organization and currently the secretary/treasurer of the Atlanta Guild.

A gynecologist in private practice, she also is a volunteer medical director for the Pregnancy Aid Clinic, which is a Catholic crisis pregnancy center.

She said that the Catholic Medical Association is not a political action committee, “but we’re very interested in laws that are being passed against the dignity of the human person and against human life.”

“I have a great interest in fellowship among Catholic physicians,” Raviele said, “because we certainly live in difficult times for practicing medicine.”

She said that physician-assisted suicide is now approved in four states and the Affordable Care Act is expanding abortion, contraception and sterilization services.

“All these things make it more difficult to practice as a Catholic physician,” she said.

“The Catholic physician brings the teachings of the Catholic Church to their practice of medicine,” Raviele said, “which benefits patients tremendously.”

Margaret Nunéz, the office manager for an internal family medicine practice and parishioner of the Cathedral of Christ the King, said that gathering for the White Mass with other health care professionals “is very interesting.”

“It connects my work and my faith, my religion. The White Mass inspires me to do better in making patients feel comfortable while at the doctor’s office,” Nunéz said.

“Beautiful,” Dr. Anthony Rozier, a dentist, said about the White Mass.

“Good time to celebrate, to give God the glory. Beautiful gathering to express our gratitude to God for all of the gifts and talents that he has bestowed upon us for the benefit of others’ health and healing,” Rozier said.

“I loved it,” said Tracie Shields, mammographer for a doctor’s office at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. “This is the first White Mass I have attended. It’s very special to be prayed for specifically.”

Shields and her husband, Sam, came into the Catholic Church last Easter and belong to the cathedral parish. “I’m just loving all this reverence and being Catholic,” she said.

“I’m still processing it,” Sam Shields said. “The dominant thing for me is the example that Luke set being a caretaker and a caregiver.”

“I was very impressed, and I appreciate the White Mass,” said Irena “Mimi” Parks, who is a doctor of pharmacy with Emory Healthcare and a member of Korean Martyrs Catholic Church, Doraville.

“Once a year I come here to confirm my professional vocation in health care,” Parks said. “Archbishop Gregory gave a good homily for us, embracing us, giving us motivation. I really appreciate it. I try to find God in all things in my job. We heal the patient and we also heal the spirit.”