Next week, for the first time ever, members of the area medical community will gather for a White Mass to seek divine guidance in living out their religious beliefs as they practice medicine and care for patients.
The Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend at 6 p.m. Tuesday at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 1702 E. Wallen Road. It will be followed by a dinner featuring guest speaker Sister Deirdre “Dede” Byrne, a doctor in Washington, D.C., and member of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts religious order of women.
“I hope she really inspires people to live their life to the fullest,” said Dr. Thomas McGovern, president of the local Dr. Jerome Lejeune Guild of Northeast Indiana, which organized the event.
Cost for the White Mass dinner is $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Reservations can be made in advance at www.fortwaynecma.com.
The local guild is part of the Catholic Medical Association, a group of doctors and health-care professionals who seek to “uphold the principles of the Catholic faith in the science and practice of medicine.”
McGovern, a local dermatologist who specializes in facial cancer surgery and reconstruction, said the White Mass is designed for Catholics, but people of all faiths are welcome.
The diocese takes a similar approach with its annual Red Mass, which Rhoades will celebrate for members of the area legal and government community at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 1122 S. Clinton St. The Red Mass asks divine guidance and strength for the coming court term for judges, attorneys, law professors, top government officials and all who work in the legal profession, a diocesan news release said.
The Red Mass, which is open to the public, will be followed by an invitation-only dinner at the Archbishop Noll Center, 915 S. Clinton St. Guest speaker will be Robert George, a professor of jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, who will talk on “What Marriage Is … and Isn't.”
The diocese has held a Red Mass in early October annually since 1999. Late Bishop Emeritus the Rev. John M. D'Arcy started the tradition, which dates back to the 13th century in the Catholic Church.
D'Arcy also was instrumental in developments that led to this year's White Mass, a tradition founded in the 1930s in the United States, McGovern said.
In summer 2009, D'Arcy began checking into starting a Catholic Medical Association guild in northeast Indiana, it says on the Dr. Jerome Lejeune Guild website, www.fortwaynecma.com.
Discussions and meetings over the next three years resulted in the formation of the local guild in late 2012, McGovern said. It is the first Catholic Medical Association guild in Indiana.
The guild is named after Dr Jerome Lejeune, a French Catholic pediatrician and geneticist who discovered the link between chromosomal abnormalities and diseases, including that Down syndrome is caused by an extra 21st chromosome. Lejeune's life now is being investigated as a possible candidate for sainthood, McGovern said.
Local guild members began planning the White Mass more than a year ago, he said. The Mass typically is held in October because Oct. 18 is the feast day of St. Luke, the patron saint of physicians.
The local guild plans to make the White Mass an annual event, McGovern said. Members hope to move it to the cathedral beginning next year.
McGovern also voiced excitement about Byrne being guest speaker at the dinner.
She has performed overseas medical missionary work, has served as the late Mother Teresa's doctor, and provides free medical care for the poor and uninsured in the Washington, D.C., area, it says on the Lejeune Guild website.
Byrne, who is board-certified in family practice and general surgery, also serves as a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves medical corps and has served military duty in Afghanistan.
McGovern said the local guild also will hold other events throughout the year to help people explore what it means to be Catholic and work in the health-care profession.
One program series begins Nov. 16, he said, with interested people meeting on the third Saturday of every month for 8 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral's St. Mother Theodore Guerin Chapel. After Mass, they will meet to study and discuss Pope John Paul II's 1984 document on the Christian meaning of human suffering.