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White Mass Honored Those in Healthcare Profession


Catholic medical professionals from across the Diocese of Gaylord joined Bishop Bernard Hebda and parishioners of St. Mary Cathedral in Gaylord for a special “White Mass” on October 24. Traditionally celebrated in many dioceses close to October 18th, the Feast Day of St. Luke, the Patron Saint of Physicians and Surgeons, it is believed to be the first such Mass held in this diocese. This year, the date selected also coincided with World Mission Sunday.

As he began his homily Bishop Hebda noted that it was appropriate that the two events were celebrated together this year since healthcare has always been an important part of the Church’s missionary efforts.

“The work of committed Catholic health professionals, motivated by their love of God and God’s creation, and with the sense of being brothers and sisters in Christ with those in need, creates a climate in which God’s mercy and love can be preached convincingly,” Bishop Hebda said. Through their ongoing work to relieve suffering -- whether in faraway lands where access to medical care is extremely limited or here within the local communities of the Diocese of Gaylord -- medical professionals have a unique opportunity to share Christ’s compassion.

Bishop Hebda stated there were three primary reasons he especially wanted to celebrate this special liturgy. First, so that the faithful could join in prayer for the men and women whose vocation is to the healthcare field. “The whole diocese comes together on this day to ask the Lord to bless doctors and nurses and all those in healthcare whether they are present here in the cathedral, or spread throughout the diocese, so that His healing presence might really be known in our diocese and so that together we might really promote a culture of life,” Bishop Hebda said.

Secondly, the Bishop said he wanted to bring together these professionals so that they could be thanked for “the wonderful work that they do. So many go above and beyond the call of duty.” Bishop Hebda particularly praised their work with the poor and underprivileged. He added that he is proud of the many ways healthcare professionals share their gifts by reaching out and participating in the medical efforts which have been undertaken in our sister diocese of the Matagalpa, Nicaragua, by working to ensure Natural Family Planning is available in our diocese, assisting in parish-based programs for health screenings and attention to the elderly, and through educational involvement within our schools.

Finally, Bishop Hebda said he wanted to offer help in dealing with the moral issues that so often arise in the quickly changing medical field. To that end, he said he would welcome the opportunity for Catholic health professionals to work together with the diocese to build a network of Catholic healthcare professionals to gather to speak about the issues and challenges that are faced in promoting a culture of life and the challenges healthcare workers face in their professions. He invited those who might be interested in further dialogue or forming a diocesan Catholic health organization to contact his office.

“Essentially, I am just thrilled that you are all here so that you know of our respect and that you are in our prayers,” Bishop Hebda concluded.

Concelebrating the Mass was Fr. Matthew Wigton, who serves as Parochial Vicar at St. Mary Cathedral. His father, Deacon Douglas Wigton, who is also a physician, served as the deacon for the Mass.

Following the Prayer after Communion, Bishop Hebda invited the healthcare professionals to stand which drew applause from the assembly and then he offered a special blessing (see sidebar). A reception followed in the Parish Hall.

The liturgy is one which Bishop Hebda hopes to celebrate annually and is already on the calendar for October 18, 2011.

Bishop Bernard Hebda blessed the healthcare professionals gathered for the White Mass using the prayer that Pope John Paul II wrote when he invited doctors to Rome during the Jubilee Year 2000.

Lord Jesus, Divine Physician, who in your earthly life showed special concern for those who suffer and entrusted to your disciples the ministry of healing, make these medical professionals ever ready to alleviate the trials of our sisters and brothers. Make them, aware of the great mission that is entrusted to them, strive always to be in the performance of daily service, an instrument of your merciful love. Enlighten their minds, guide their hands, make their hearts diligent and compassionate. Ensure that in every patient they know how to discern the features of your divine Face.

You who are the Way, provide them with the gift of knowing how to imitate you every day as caregivers not only of the body but of the whole person, helping those who are sick to tread with your trust their own earthly path until the moment of their encounter with You.

You who are the Truth, provide these healthcare professionals with the gift of wisdom and science in order to penetrate the mystery of the human person and their transcendent destiny as they draw near to them in order to discover the causes of their maladies and find suitable remedies.

You who are the Life, provide these men and women with the gift of preaching and bearing witness to the “Gospel of Life” in their professions, committing themselves to defending it always, from conception to its natural end, and to respect the dignity of each human being, and especially the dignity of the weakest and the most in need. Make them O Lord, Good Samaritans, ready to welcome, treat, and console those they encounter in their work. Following the example of the holy medical personnel who have preceded them -- and especially their Patron, St. Luke -- help them to offer their generous contribution to the constant renewal of healthcare structures.

Bless their studies and their profession, enlighten their research and their teaching. Lastly, grant to them, having constantly loved and served You in our suffering sisters and brothers, that at the end of their earthly pilgrimage they may contemplate your glorious countenance and experience the joy of the encounter with You in your Kingdom of joy and everlasting peace. Amen.

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