White Mass held to honor those in medical fields Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Kat Wagner, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Sep. 24, 2009 -- 12:00 AM
white mass
Bishop Robert C. Morlino receives the Offertory gifts from Dr. Elizabeth and Peter Larson and their children Anthony, Gianna, and Alexander (not shown), during the Diocesan White Mass, held September 19 at St. Paul’s University Catholic Center in Madison. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)

MADISON -- When Jesus gave Pontius Pilate the testimony of the “noble confession,” that he is the Christ and son of God, Pontius Pilate gave us the symbol for how to reject truth: “What is Truth?”

“That’s our world -- it’s a world very hostile to the noble profession Jesus made and very hostile to the noble confession you and I are going to make,” Bishop Robert C. Morlino said during his homily at the White Mass September 19 at St. Paul’s University Catholic Center in Madison.

But those in the health care profession should remember that the human person is a mind/body unity, he said, “and as you work to heal the body, with God’s help and those around you, you have to work to heal the spirit -- the mind, the soul.”

Bishop Morlino, who celebrated the Mass with concelebrant Fr. Eric Nielsen, co-pastor of St. Paul’s, was speaking to doctors, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and medical students at the annual White Mass. The Mass is held specifically for those in the medical and health care fields: “white” refers to the color of the traditional garb of health care professionals.

The bishop reminded the students and health care professionals at the Mass that though healing doesn’t mean forcing everyone to be Catholic, it does mean giving testimony to the noble confession in your heart.

“As you get formed for the health care mission, the healing mission, worry about your own spiritual formation,” he said. “What about you is going to communicate to those you serve your hope, your courage, and your enthusiasm?”

• For more information on the Catholic Medical Student Association at UW, visit: cathmed.rso.wisc.edu

• For health care professionals, visit the Catholic Medical Association in Wisconsin Web site: www.wisconsincma.org

The Catholic Medical Student Association (CSMA) at the University of Wisconsin, which sponsored this year’s White Mass, hopes to help with that formation. Formed in 2008, the organization seeks through networking and service to instill in Catholic medical students “a keen sense of ethical responsibility and to promote understanding and respect or principles of ethical medical practice among the public.”

“I think it’s important, especially on a secular campus, to have a place where Catholic students can feel at home, to have a place where they can bring their concerns about integrating their faith and their values with everything we’re being taught and all the things our patients are asking us,” said Abigail Nitschke, who with fellow CMSA leader Jennifer Barr organized the Mass.

For Steph Place, a medical student in her fourth year, her Catholic faith was one of the motivating factors for pursuing her vocation and also serves as a support as she continues her studies.

“I think it’s the root of my compassion and compulsion to serve certain populations of people, especially underserved populations, especially pregnant women and reproductive health,” Place said. “It’s the source of motivation for why I wanted to do it, and it’s also an instrument of survival when medical school training is very hard. Training can be really draining, and it’s where I find my hope and bouyancy and energy.”

To maintain faith in the face of the stresses and challenges of the medical profession, prayer and being educated in the faith are important factors, said Dr. Elizabeth Larson, a resident at UW-Fox Valley who attended the Mass.

“This is a hard time for people in medicine,” Dr. Larson said. “The greater medical community doesn’t come from the same background -- they come from a humanistic background, and it’s very easy to do things against the faith if you’re not educated about it, if you’re not educated on the consequences, the spiritual and the physical. So a person has to know the faith and know the facts, because it’s so easy to cross that line and lose your faith doing that.”