Diocese of Lake Charles
LAKE CHARLES — Health care professionals gathered on Sunday, October 18, to participate in a White Mass celebrated by Bishop Glen John Provost. The 9:30 a.m. liturgy in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was appropriately celebrated on the Feast of St. Luke, patron of physicians.
Religious Sister of Mercy, Sister Mary Benedicta Maier, organized the Mass as a way to recognize the vocation of health care professionals in the community and ask for God’s blessing on their work.
The White Mass is so named because of the color traditionally worn by those in the healing profession, including physicians, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners, physical and occupational therapists, technicians, administrators, health care personnel, ministers of consolation, compassionate care ministers, chaplains, and mental health workers.
From its inception, the medical profession has been understood as a healing profession, a way in which Christ’s work continues upon earth. “Every person has a role to play in bringing Christ to others,” Sister Mary Benedicta said. “More Christians, hopefully, will be inspired to enter the medical field.”
The first time Dr. Michael A. Bergeron, an oncologist at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, ever heard of a White Mass was when he attended one at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge about three or four years ago. He said he is grateful the Diocese offered the opportunity in Lake Charles.
“I feel very privileged to have been able to participate in the Mass,” he said. “I believe that now more than ever we, as doctors, need special blessings. It is becoming increasingly difficult to practice our profession in all aspects without getting some pushback from the government in terms of regulations, some medical fields more so than others.”
Dr. Bergeron said he knew it was going to be a great challenge to specialize in oncology, but he recognized that the nature of the patient was unique, acknowledging he was attracted to that.
Bergeron draws on his Catholic faith, especially when it comes to euthanasia –– a big topic among some in the medical profession who deal with end of life.
“There are forces that are at work that are not in compliance with teachings of the Church,” he said. “As Catholics we have to push back against that.”
“It is important that a person dies with dignity and with as much support that we, as doctors can give,” Dr. Bergeron continued. “It’s important for a lot of physicians, if not all of them, that we feel like we are really helping people. What matters most is doing God’s will, doing God’s work faithfully, as a Catholic physician.”
Dr. Bryan Barrilleaux, an internal medicine physician, is owner of St. Luke’s Diagnostic Clinic of Lake Charles, LLC, with his wife and officer manager, Kathy. He went into private practice after working in emergency medicine at Lake Charles Memorial for many years. He was also responsible for helping open one of the first urgent care facilities in Lake Charles.
Having been involved in health care for 45 years and working as a physician for 36 years, Dr. Barrilleaux said he had never heard of a White Mass until Sister Mary Benedicta invited him.
Bringing his Catholic faith into his professional life, Barrilleaux recognizes that his medical practice is a vocation.
“It offers a good opportunity to evangelize through health care using my profession to help bring people to Christ,” he said. “Whether in a small way or big way, I try to make the evangelization of Christ and the Gospel message a part of every patient visit,” he said, pointing out that his medical practice is dedicated to St. Luke.
Another first-time participant at the White Mass was Megan McAtee, a nurse practitioner for Dr. Lee J. Monlezun, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist. She said she was proud to be a part of it.
“I thought the White Mass was a wonderful idea, especially in today’s world with coronavirus and all the political things that are going on with Respect for Life. The Mass is very much needed,” said McAtee.
Erin Caraway, an occupational therapist at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, also agreed that the White Mass is a very special idea for the community noting that she had never attended one before.
“We have been praying for health care workers and an end to the pandemic for a long time,” Caraway said. “To have a special blessing and have all of our medical community being prayed for is an honor.”
Spiritual health care cannot be overlooked when it comes to those who minister to God’s people.
Canon Jean-Marie Moreau, who assists with Latin Masses in the Diocese of Lake Charles, refers to himself as “doctor animarum” which is Latin for doctor of souls.
“Jesus is the greatest Physician, and the confessional is a hospital for souls,” Canon said following the Mass. “Every priest is a doctor who has a role in saving lives for eternity.” Moreau is a priest for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest Order.
During a reception that followed in the Cathedral courtyard, Sister Mary Benedicta shared information on the Catholic Medical Association. Health care professionals and clergy interested in learning more should visit www.cathmed.org.
Prayer of Blessing over Health Care Professionals
Almighty God, whose beloved Son Jesus Christ, went about doing good, and healing all manner of illness and disease: continue, we beseech you, his gracious work among us especially here in the Diocese of Lake Charles. Grant to physicians, nurses and all health care professionals, wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience; keep them safe and preserve them from all contagion. Cheer, heal and sanctify the sick, and send down your blessing on all who care for them, Healer, Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.