NORTH PROVIDENCE — Father Timothy Reilly, Chancellor of the Diocese of Providence, celebrated the annual White Mass on Wednesday, Oct. 19, at Our Lady of Fatima Hospital Chapel, to ask the Lord’s blessings upon those called to share the ministry of healing, even in the most difficult circumstances.
Nurses, doctors, specialists and hospital chaplains gathered together to pray and support one another in the annual event. Dr. Daniel Harrop, president of the R.I. Catholic Medical Society, expressed the importance of the White Mass for health care professionals.
“It’s great for them to take time to pray together and realize the importance of their mission and how Christ can add to that mission,” he said.
Patti Cafaro, a registered nurse at Roger Williams Medical Center, has been attending the White Mass for years. This year was different as she and fellow nurse Doreen Thomas, invited the mother of a beloved patient, who passed away 8 months to the night of the White Mass celebration, to join them in prayer.
“I wanted come to pray for my patients and to pray with my friends,” said Thomas, extending an arm around her friend Carol Corcelli, whose daughter Isabella Corcelli, at the age of 21, passed away after a long battle with cancer.
Corcelli shared that her daughter’s nurses have been a great witness of Christ’s love and healing, adding that they didn’t just care for Isabella, they treated her like their own daughter.
“These women have been very instrumental in my life,” she said. “They started taking care of my daughter when she was 17. Meeting them has renewed my faith.”
“I see coming to the White Mass as part of my vocation,” said Cafaro. “Isabella’s death has been painful, but we all feel her presence with us. You need a lot of strength to be a caregiver.”
Earl Mahar, who was among the Knights of Columbus members in attendance, commented on the emotional facets that these dedicated health care providers face daily.
“The people who work in hospitals have very difficult jobs,” he said. “Outside of being experts in medical procedures, there’s a lot of emotion that goes into it that I think a lot of people don’t realize.”
Father Reilly, who concelebrated the Mass with Father Christopher Mahar and Father Edward Sousa Jr., Fatima Hospital’s director of pastoral care, shared that for those in the health care community, grace, gift and mercy are so abundantly needed.
“We have been through quite the journey in the past several years as it became more difficult to live out our Catholic mission as health care providers — you know that better than anyone,” said Father Reilly. “We come tonight with a sense of having walked a road that none of us would have predicted even 10 years ago.”
As the United States government attempts to redefine Catholic institutions by requiring all employer health plans to provide free contraception, sterilizations and abortion inducing drugs, Father Reilly, who serves on the CharterCARE Health Partners Community Board, said that conscience rights of health care professionals has been undermined nationwide and added that the effects of the HHS Mandate and Affordable Care Act are beginning to show across the country.
“Our health care is being held hostage, presenting the empty choice we have had to live with for the past four or five years as this becomes law across our land. Either comply and abandon your religious beliefs or resist and be fined for your faith,” he said. “We are just beginning to see the crushing effects on our faith based organizations across the country. And in just a few weeks, finally, we will cast that crucial vote.”
Being a faithful Catholic, or Christian medical professional, will only become harder, said Father Reilly, who offered advice on how to respond to these continued pressures.
“We do so by acknowledging the difficulties, digging in our heels and being authentic to our God given mission of mercy — come what may. That’s the framework of tonight’s Mass in this Year of Mercy. We start there and extend the mercy to those who most need it. That’s why in a special way, health care professionals are the missionaries of mercy for those who come to you for assistance, for service and for care.”
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