By Maria Luisa Torres
Health care professionals are “the quiet missionaries of the culture of life,” said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, celebrant of the White Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Mission Doctors Association co-sponsored the Mass to honor all physicians, nurses and other health care professionals, and to honor a local doctor, nurse and religious order for extraordinary contributions to the health care field.
The White Mass is named for the distinctive white lab coats worn by many health care professionals.
“Your work is so important, so essential. In your profession, you are called to be apostles of love,” Archbishop Gomez said. “In everything you do, you bear witness to God’s love and care, with every patient and every person you meet. In healing people’s bodies and minds you make it possible for their souls to encounter the living God.”
He said the Oct. 27 Mass, celebrated at the cathedral for the first time, had special significance for him because his own father had been a physician.
“(My father) always wanted me to be a doctor, but I guess God had other plans,” said the smiling archbishop.
Among those recognized at the Mass was Dr. Eli Ayoub, a physician at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood who was named national Catholic doctor of the year for 2013 by the Los Angeles-based Mission Doctors Association.
Every summer for the past 26 years, he has embarked on a personal and professional mission, traveling to the Middle East — primarily to his native Lebanon, at times venturing to Syria and Jordan — to offer much-needed free health care to the needy. He sees up to 50 patients a day, working from morning until night, seven days a week.
But while he may grow weary by day’s end, Ayoub’s spirit remains strong and uplifted, because intertwining his work and his faith is simply a way of life for him.
“This is a great honor for my family and especially for St. Francis Hospital; it’s really very rewarding,” Ayoub told The Tidings, newspaper of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, after Mass. “My Catholic faith has enriched my life and career and has made me the doctor I am.”
Sister Kathleen Ann DuRoss, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who is an RN, an educator and cardiac clinical nurse, was recognized for her “extraordinary commitment to Catholic health care.” She was unable to attend the Mass.
The Sister Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick, religious congregation was honored for the 85th anniversary of their members’ service in the Los Angeles area. The religious order operates Mary Health of the Sick Convalescent and Nursing Hospital in Newbury Park, and have a house of formation in Oxnard.
“Today we salute and honor you sisters as people who are gracious, gentle, dedicated to Christ, who bring a healing presence to all you serve,” said Holy Faith Sister Angela Hallahan, director of the archdiocesan Office of Health Affairs, as she called forward local representatives of the Sister Servants of Mary.
Near the end of Mass, Archbishop Gomez asked the scores of health care professionals in attendance to stand with their arms extended forward and their hands cupped in front of them to receive a special “blessing of the hands,” for strength, skill, sensitivity and steadiness in their day-to-day work with patients.
“Prosper the work of their hands, O Lord,” he prayed Archbishop Gomez.
Ayoub, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mount Lebanon-St. Peter’s Cathedral in Los Angeles, echoed the archbishop’s sentiment about faith and healing going hand in hand, noting that how he cares for his patients is “the greatest way to preach the Gospel without saying a word.”
“I did not become a physician for myself, but to help others,” said Ayoub, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) at St. Francis, and the first local physician to receive the Catholic doctor of the year award.
“By caring for others,” he continued, “we show our love for God.” – CNS