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Female Catholic medical support group strives for balance

A support group for Catholic female medical professionals meets at St. Joseph Church in Shawnee. From left are pictured: Holly Bracken, CNA; Rebecca Doherty, sonographer; Katie McAnany, pediatrician; and Allegra Grannell, Cardio NP. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

by Susan Fotovich McCabe
Special to The Leaven

SHAWNEE — Inspired Catholics had high hopes and stood ready to serve at the conclusion of the archdiocesan-sponsored “Enflame Our Hearts, Homes and Communities” convocation one year ago. Then, a pandemic swept the globe.

Thankfully, faith and flexibility go hand in hand, and one such group just continued the work of the convocation by switching their in-person get-togethers to meeting via Zoom.

Dr. Katie McAnany is among the Enflame participants who continue to carry on the convocation’s mission with a group she founded two years earlier. McAnany, a pediatrician with Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Missouri, started a support group for Catholic, female medical professionals — physicians, nurses, therapists, etc. It is designed to navigate living Catholic in the secular, medical workplace.

“Two years ago, I went on a women’s retreat at the archdiocese’s Prairie Star Ranch. At the time, I was feeling conflicted  — feeling like I had to hide my Catholic faith at work,” McAnany said. “It was my own feeling of how I would be perceived. I felt like I was living in two worlds.”

As a Catholic physician, McAnany does not prescribe birth control to her patients. And while her colleagues have never directly criticized her position, she believed she could never merge her personal and professional life.

McAnany felt empowered by the retreat and knew there had to be others who shared her concern. She began spreading the word at her parish, St. Joseph in Shawnee, and among Catholic medical professionals at Children’s Mercy.

The Catholic Medical Women’s Group, McAnany said, is for anyone “who lives in both worlds.”

The group is not limited to St. Joseph parishioners, but that’s where they met long before COVID-19. Their monthly agenda tackles everything from birth control and abortion to natural family planning and praying with patients. Essentially, she said, the group discusses anything related to being Catholic in a world dominated by secularism.

“I have had patients come to me seeking birth control and I have told them that I don’t prescribe it. I encourage and counsel my patients to observe abstinence,” McAnany said. “The group has helped me grow in my confidence to not be ashamed to be a Catholic in the workplace.”

McAnany and several of the group’s participants vowed to make this one of St. Joseph’s post-Enflame evangelization initiatives. Fellow parishioner Allegra Grannell is a pediatric nurse practitioner at Children’s Mercy. Grannell said McAnany told her about the group and she was intrigued by the focus on Catholic women in the medical profession.

“I think there are a lot of teachings within the Catholic Church that don’t align with the secular world,” Grannell said. “I work with young children who have congenital heart defects and I’ve been witness to conversations among my colleagues about how it might have been better if the baby had never been born. As a Catholic, that’s hard to hear.”

Grannell said she says “a lot of Hail Marys” when she hears conversations like that. Like McAnany, she believes the group has given her the strength to evangelize God’s word. She, too, told her Catholic co-workers about the group.

“God has called medical providers to help people and to bring Christ’s light to everyone,” Grannell said. “When I’m at work, if I’m having a meaningful conversation with a co-worker and it turns to God, I invite them to join the group.”

Samantha Budden, a registered nurse in the emergency department at Saint Luke’s Hospital on the Country Club Plaza joined the Catholic Women’s Medical Group when it began. She, too, is a St. Joseph parishioner and was interested in discussions about faith in the workplace.

“As a health care provider, I work with and take care of people from all different faiths and backgrounds,” Budden said. “I know that not everyone believes the same things that I do, but the root of the word ‘catholic’ is ‘universal,’ and I believe that everyone I encounter deserves God’s grace.”

“As an emergency nurse in the metro area, I often take care of people in their greatest time of need. The pandemic has been especially challenging because of the restrictions on visitors,” she added. “I deeply empathize with my patients and advocate on their behalf. Prayer helps me cope with the burden of my encounters and [the] suffering that I witness.”

What McAnany and the others described from being a part of the Catholic Women’s Medical Group is exactly what Enflame’s organizers had hoped to accomplish. According to Emily Lopez, a consultant for archdiocesan office of adult evangelization, the convocation has helped to encourage the launch of a number of parish initiatives and to offer foundational support for individual work, including McAnany’s group.

“It is beautiful to see the diversity of efforts, as each of our parish communities has been gifted with unique charisms that are reflected in their particular work,” Lopez said. “These stories serve to encourage, equip and fuel the continued desire for discipleship in sharing the joy of the Gospel in unique and creative ways between individuals, families and communities.”

A one-year report summarizing the convocation’s successes to date is expected to grow discipleship and add to the efforts, even in the face of the pandemic, Lopez said. Small groups play a particular role in evangelization, she said, as they shrink larger parish communities into more intimate environments for growing personal relationships. 

How to join

If you are a female, Catholic medical professional and are interested in joining the group, send an email to Katie McAnany at: kmcanany@gmail.com or find the “Catholic Medical Women’s Group” on Facebook.

About the author

Susan Fotovich McCabe

Susan Fotovich McCabe

Susan Fotovich McCabe is a writer, editor and Kansas City native. As a writer, Susan has covered a wide array of topics, from health care to aviation and everything in between. Susan built a long freelance practice, where she contributed to local publications, such as The Kansas City Star, Kansas City Business, Lifestyle Magazine and Parenting Children with Special Needs. She worked for two Kansas City public relations agencies and a media publishing company. Susan and her husband, Bill, support all things Jayhawk and love spending time with their three children, son-in-law and granddaughter.

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