by Jessica Langdon
LEAWOOD — Susan Cunningham hadn’t heard of a White Mass before and an email inviting her to attend one intrigued her.
So curiosity led Cunningham, a massage therapist with Catholic Community Hospice, which operates under the umbrella of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, to Church of the Nativity in Leawood the morning of Feb. 9.
“I found it fascinating,” she said of the White Mass for health care workers, “and . . . very moving. It was amazing . . . beautiful.”
Celebrant Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann thanked the medical professionals and their families for attending.
“We thank you even more for what you do in your professional life,” he said.
The annual Mass, celebrated near the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick on Feb. 11, was organized by the Kansas City Saints Cosmas & Damian Guild of the Catholic Medical Association.
Concelebrating the Mass were Bishop Emeritus Raymond J. Boland of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph; archdiocesan vicar general Father Gary Pennings; St. Joseph Medical Center chaplain Father Anthony Williams; Missouri Catholic Medical Association liaison Father Ernie Davis; and Kansas Missouri Catholic Medical Association chaplain Father Steve Beseau, who is also the director of the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center in Lawrence.
In his homily, Father Beseau recalled a letter Archbishop Naumann wrote to Catholic physicians a few years ago inviting them to join the Catholic Medical Association.
“Every Catholic is called to integrate the teaching and principles of our faith into our personal and professional lives,” the archbishop wrote. “This is particularly challenging today in the field of medicine where to be true to our Catholic faith may place us in opposition to some popular cultural values.”
Father Beseau said that wisdom stands out more than ever today.
Illness and two surgeries in 2012 introduced him to health care from the patient’s perspective when he was hospitalized for weeks.
Health care workers must not only stay on top of the newest treatments and technology, he said. They must keep in mind that they “are not just technicians treating diseases, but human persons treating human persons.”
He pointed to many of the promises members of the CMA make — some that would apply to anyone in health care, but some specifically for Catholics.
They are called to form their professional consciences according to the teachings of their church and “to participate in the evangelization of the suffering world.”
The words at the end of Mass instruct us, he said, to “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
And he encouraged the congregation to take those words literally.
“Each time you walk into your office or hospital, take the words of the Mass and make them your own,” he said. “Paste them on your door, tape it to your desk, make it your screen saver. Imagine they are words spoken by Jesus directly to you as you take on your duties and responsibilities, for indeed, they are: ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.’”
That struck a chord with fourth-year medical student Laura Jennings, who went to the Mass with her husband Brian.
“I think as soon as I get a practice I’m going to put a plaque up as a reminder for me, as well as everyone I work with, that that’s our mission as physicians,” said Jennings, who attends Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa.
Tom Uko, a volunteer with Catholic Community Hospice, was touched by the church’s appreciation and support of the medical community and the people who support it.
Hospice chaplain Tracy MacClement, also with Catholic Community Hospice, agreed.
“I love the sense of solidarity as we all try to deliver health care as a ministry — not just as a job, but as a ministry,” she said. “I really appreciated the sense of solidarity of the struggle that these are perilous times morally and ethically and that we’re in this together.”