Just as Jesus has been referred to as the “Great Physician,” many religious leaders have said healthcare professionals, by the nature of their calling as healers, are performing the work of Christ here on earth.
THE DIOCESE OF ORANGE CELEBRATES ITS ANNUAL HEALTHCARE AND MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS’ WHITE MASS TO HONOR AND PRAY FOR DOCTORS AND OTHER HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS. PHOTOS BY KIERNAN COLIFLORES/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
And so, the Diocese of Orange celebrates its annual Healthcare and Mental Health Professionals’ “White Mass” to honor and pray for doctors and other healthcare professionals, such as nurses, medical technicians, hospital administrators, psychosocial providers, emergency personnel and those who work in supportive roles in medical settings.
This year’s White Mass was celebrated on Sunday, Oct. 15, in the Arboretum at the Christ Cathedral campus.
The Mass’ name is derived from the white coats traditionally worn by medical professionals and the Catholic tradition of the White Mass dates to the founding of the Catholic Medical Association in the 1930s.
The program has now grown to include those who wear white coats, as well as all those who work in healthcare and mental health fields.
THE WHITE MASS, WHICH HONORS HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS, WILL OCCUR EVERY OCTOBER AT CHRIST CATHEDRAL.
The Mass and accompanying festivities were sponsored by Providence Healthcare System and the Catholic Medical Association and organized by Deacon Modesto Cordero, Director of the Office of Worship, and Rebecca Freeman, Pastoral Care Ministry Coordinator.
“Our Catholic story has been so much a part of our healthcare story, especially here in the United States with so many of our healthcare systems being founded by religious sisters and religious orders for whom it was not about money, it was about care,” said Freeman, who served as a healthcare and hospital chaplain prior to working for the Diocese. “It was about caring for the whole person, body, mind and spirit.”
The Mass and accompanying festivities also provide healthcare professionals, along with their families and supporters, a chance to fellowship, she said. “So often with the hustle and bustle of being in crisis mode in healthcare settings, sometimes providers don’t get that chance to connect with colleagues in the field across disciplines. We really want to bring the community together today and highlight the amazing work that’s happening.”
Msgr. Stephen Doktorczyk, pastor of St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church in Yorba Linda, served as the main celebrant.
The White Mass honors those in the healing ministry of healthcare, whether they are Catholic or not, Msgr. Doktorczyk said.
“The main reason we are here is to recognize, honor, and pray for all those in the healing ministry of health care, whether they be Catholic or not,” the Monsignor said. “We rightly recognize today, those who are in high profile roles such as doctors and administrators, but we also acknowledge those who are behind them – the nurses, physicians’ assistants, chaplains, technicians, scientists, maintenance, and office staff and so many others, including volunteers and families who are here. Without their dedication, outstanding healthcare would not be possible.”
The healing ministry of Christ is both beautiful in its presence to those hurting, but also challenging, added Msgr. Doktorczyk, because practitioners must often confront a myriad of complexities, including ethical and moral dilemmas.
Following Communion, both Providence and the Catholic Medical Association recognized individual healthcare professionals for contributions in their respective areas of practice.
Providence honorees included Dr. Chris Celio, medical director of Employer Wellness at Providence St. Joseph Health; Daniel Bondarenko R.N. critical care nurse at Mission Hospital, Kim Caicedo, food services at St. Joseph Hospital and Juana Salcido, who works in food services at St. Jude Medical Center.
“I thank you my Lord for creating me to be a nurse, to help people,” Bondarenko said. “I’ve been following the steps of my father who was a physician assistant.”
The Catholic Medical Association gave lifetime achievement awards to two longtime members, Dr. Vincent Fortanasce and Dr. Bill Sears.
Dr. Fortanasce of Arcadia is a retired Clinical Professor of Neurology at USC and author of multiple books.
“I think one of the most important things about medicine is being there for the patient, letting them know that you care,” Dr. Fortanasce said. “I often tell my medical students, ‘Don’t be afraid to put your hand out and let them touch you’ because once they realize that you care, that is pure. It is not just what we know that is important, but it is how we care that is most important.”
Dr. Sears, a resident of San Juan Capistrano, is a pediatrician with decades of experience and an author of multiple books on parenting, including the widely popular, “The Baby Book.”
“This is wonderful because about 50 years ago I started out in the seminary for three years,” Dr. Sears said. “But during my 52 years as a pediatrician, I realized that the strength of my faith merged with the strength of my medical profession. Thank you, God, for giving me the path to become a medical doctor.”
The White Mass will occur every October at the Christ Cathedral.
“The Diocese, in collaboration with our generous sponsors, hope to continue to have this annual liturgy grow in the years to come,” explained Deacon Cordero. “We hope to honor, recognize and celebrate the dedication and service of all the healthcare and mental health providers in our communities.”