DELRAY BEACH | Father Dennis Gonzales, pastor of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish and a trained nurse, took the opportunity Nov. 5, 2022, to thank all healthcare professionals for their compassion and dedication during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The occasion was a local White Mass, which is so called because of the garments traditionally worn by medical personnel and is held to pray for those in the health care field.
“We gather together as one to support our doctors, our nurses and other healthcare professionals who work tirelessly every day and especially during the pandemic,” Father Gonzales said at his Delray Beach church.
During the homily, he acknowledged the hard work that is constantly done, but especially to fight COVID, which has killed more than 1 million Americans.
“You showed to us and the whole world that the profession you have chosen is not simply a career,” said Father Gonzales, who is chaplain of the Palm Beach Physicians Guild, adding it’s a vocation in which they have followed the Lord’s call to serve others and offer comfort and peace. “You are there to serve the Lord and to help others with great joy. That’s why we survived this pandemic, because there are people like you who are ready to help and to offer your lives as a sacrifice.”
When the pandemic was at its worst, Father Gonzales said, he was allowed to minister to a few hospital patients, anointing them and praying with them in the intensive care unit.
“When I was inside the ICU, I saw the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other healthcare front-liners working there,” he said. “I felt that that ICU was what we call a ‘war zone.’ They had an enemy to confront and it’s even more dangerous because the enemy cannot be seen. They were there taking care of the patients. They were there praying for the patients. When I saw them, I saw their dedication.”
It was heartbreaking for many family members who weren’t allowed to enter hospitals to be at the bedsides of their dying relatives. It was the medical people who acted in the place of family members, comforting the ailing patients.
“Your presence brings so much peace and comfort that, in the midst of hardship and difficulties, you bring Jesus Christ into the lives of your patients,” Father Gonzales said. “When family members were not able to touch the hands of their loved ones who were dying, you were there to hold their hands and you acted as their surrogates. You were there acting as family members bringing peace to that patient.
“My brothers and sisters, you continue to be the face of Christ to the people you meet, especially to your patients, and we are here to continue to support you and to pray for you,” he said.
The White Mass was held in conjunction with the Palm Beach Physicians Guild, which is affiliated with the Catholic Medical Association. Dr. Felix Rodriguez, president of the Palm Beach Physicians Guild, which began in 2016, gave remarks at the end of the Mass.
He said the guild wants to revive its activities now that the pandemic is over, and he urged medical professionals to join, especially younger ones including pre-med and medical students who could benefit from the Catholic guild’s guidance.
“I also encourage people to join the national organization,” Rodriguez told the Florida Catholic. “It’s open to all health care professionals. There are different tiers of membership and different costs. If we get members of the national organization, then they will feel more encouraged to become part of our local guild. But you don’t have to be a member of the national organization to be part of our guild. We don’t have a membership fee or anything like that.”