Adhering to COVID-19 safety precautions, Catholic healthcare professionals within the Diocese of Palm Beach gathered together to worship and to renew their professional healthcare promises at the Fourth Annual White Mass held at St. Ann Church in West Palm Beach, Nov. 14. The annual Mass was celebrated to honor the service of health care workers and, especially this year, to honor their “heroic service amidst the pandemic.”
The Palm Beach Physicians Guild of the Catholic Medical Association sponsored the annual White Mass, named for the traditional uniform color associated with health care professionals. Father Dennis Gonzales, parochial vicar of St. Ann Church, guild chaplain and former medical-surgical and hospice nurse, was the celebrant of the Mass and was assisted by Father Daniel Devore, retired chaplain of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Palm Beach.
The Mass began with a prayer by Father Gonzales. “At this Holy Mass, we ask the Lord, our divine physician, to continue to grant us good health as we continue to stand on the front lines. We also pray for the healing of the sick, and for a swift end to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Father Gonzales’s homily focused on the health of medical professionals, especially since they faced many challenges this year caring for patients during the pandemic and for some, at great risk to themselves.
He explained that while health care workers focus so much on taking care of others, it is important that they find time to take care of themselves.
“We carefully selected the readings for today. Love God—the greatest commandment—and then love your neighbor as you love yourself. Loving yourself is part of the equation. My friends, taking care of ourselves does not mean that we neglect the needs of others until our own needs are satisfied. It means we have to be aware of nurturing sound and healthy attributes to ourselves. There is a saying that goes, ‘You cannot give what you do not have.’ So, if we don’t have strength our energy quickly dries up.”
Bella Simbajon, a registered nurse, was jubilant. “It is very touching that there is a special Mass for healthcare workers. The nurturing of our co-workers has been neglected. We care for others but, not care for ourselves. I am happy Father Dennis talked about that.”
Cristina, a practicing nurse at St. Mary Hospital, reflected, "God is important to heal and to be more spiritual. Prayer lightens up our burden.”
Dr. Félix A. Rodríguez, president of the Palm Beach Physicians Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, said, “We are part of the Catholic Medical Association nationally. Our patron saint is St. Luke, the patron saint of doctors. We are an apostolate and we have been affected by the pandemic. Typically, there is a reception and a way for us to connect with people after Mass, but not this year.”
Dr. Rodriguez finds prayer paramount. “Prayer is very important to us. Each month the guild sponsors a session for reflection and renewal for healthcare professionals. The next one will be on Saturday, December 19, at 10:00 a.m., an Advent-type of reflection with Eucharistic adoration.”
Dr. Anthony Dardano, vice president of the guild, attends daily Mass and always prays for his patients. “Prayer is incredibly important to me. As a physician practicing in Catholic hospitals all my life, there is a huge difference with prayer. I go to Mass every morning and my prayer life is always focused on me making the right decisions for my patients.”
Tina McClary, a pharmacist, attended the Mass with her two small children seeking guidance. “I am in between companies right now. I always ask God to give me guidance to help people understand the medicine they are getting and to be a servant for him too.”
Father Gonzales ended the Mass with the Prayer for Healthcare Workers. “Lord Jesus, our great physician, we kneel before you. Since every good and perfect gift must come from you, we pray: Give skill to our hands, clear vision to our minds, kindness and sympathy to our hearts. Give us singleness of purpose, and a true realization of the rare privilege to serve. Always bless us with health and strength so we can continue to touch the lives of those you entrusted to our care.”
The Mass was live-streamed for the first time via Facebook @radiocatolicaonlinetv and on the corresponding YouTube page. For more information on the Palm Beach Physicians Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, visit cathmedflorida.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about St. Ann Church, visit stannchurchwpb.org or call (561) 832-3757.
By Aleen Stanton
Florida Catholic Correspondent