By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
Catholic healthcare professionals in the Diocese of Lake Charles now have a better opportunity to keep their pulse on medicine and morality with the recent approval of a new guild of the national Catholic Medical Association.
St. Luke’s Guild of Southwest Louisiana — the first one in the area to promote the principles of the Catholic faith in science and practice of medicine — received approval on December 6, 2022. The application was submitted less than two months prior on October 18, the Feast of St. Luke, who by tradition is known to be a physician.
“The thought was that this area, having a Catholic hospital, could benefit from a guild,” said Sister Mary Benedicta Maier, RSM, who serves as the bishop’s liaison for the Guild. “I’ve seen firsthand the goodness of healthcare professionals being able to integrate their faith with their practice.”
CMA guilds aim to provide fellowship, education, and opportunities that serve the local Church and public. Formation requires full permission from the diocesan bishop.
Giving his endorsement to the Diocese of Lake Charles guild, Bishop Glen John Provost said, “Accrediting St. Luke’s Guild of Southwest Louisiana is a major step in the right direction. The Catholic Church has a long history of health care going back to the earliest days of Christianity’s history and to Jesus Christ who healed the sick and raised the dead.”
Bishop Provost appointed Very Rev. Edward Richard, MS, as chaplain of the Guild and Sister Mary Benedicta as his liaison. Father Richard is Pastor of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church in Sulphur and a 25-year member of the Catholic Medical Association. Sister Mary Benedicta serves as co-director of the Office of Pro-life Ministries and holds a master’s degree in bioethics.
Other officers include:
- Dr. Kipp Ardoin, president; a pediatrician
- Dr. Adrienne Breaux, vice president; a pediatrician and internal medicine physician
- Dr. Bryan Barrilleaux, secretary; an internal medicine physician
- Chad Hobgood, PharmD, treasurer; a pharmacist
“I wish to commend Sister Mary Benedicta, Dr. Ardoin, and Father Richard. Without their leadership and assistance, this worthy project could not have progressed to a successful conclusion,” Bishop Provost said.
Healthcare professionals have been enthusiastic about the idea of having a guild ever since Sister Mary Benedicta introduced the idea during the diocese’s first White Mass in October 2020.
“People are feeling a need to have a Catholic voice in a group setting where one doesn’t have to check their faith at the door,” she said.
As president, Dr. Ardoin said that he is ready to do whatever it takes to get things moving in the direction of Christ-centered health care.
“I have been praying and trying to figure out ways that I could give back to the Church and community,” he said. “Other than my vocation to marriage, being a pediatrician is something I do day in and day out. I want to make sure it is in line with my Catholic faith and my Catholic beliefs.”
Father Richard said that he sees the guild as an opportunity to interact with the local Catholic medical community to further the Church’s mission and the healing ministry of Jesus.
“On a broad scale, we will support each other in expanding our understanding of Catholic teaching applied in health care,” said Father Richard. “As a priest and moral theologian with teaching and practical experience in bioethical matters, I can respond to questions that arise using authentic Catholic teaching. As chaplain, I can assist the guild and its members in preserving their Catholic identity and spirituality.”
Sister Mary Benedicta said key issues of concern for the guild include sex-transgender reassignment surgery, especially among pediatricians; end-of-life care and refusal of medical treatment; navigating post-Roe v. Wade and seeking ways to be supportive of pregnancy centers; and offering more education on all bioethical issues.
“There are influences in which conscience protection is being heavily violated and challenged,” Sister Mary Benedicta said. “To have like-minded physicians, pharmacists, and nurses all able to come together to support each other and grow spiritually and in the formation of their profession is crucial.”
Dr. Ardoin noted that questions of homosexuality, transgenderism, and cross-dressing are popping up more and more in pediatrics.
“As a pediatrician at the Children’s Clinic for 12 years, I never thought I would have to breach these subjects with young individuals or parents,” he remarked. “This guild is something that we need in this area.”
Father Richard said everyone who is dedicated to health care can benefit from knowing more about the mission and ethos of Catholic health care.
“Catholic medical ethics provides a sure point of reference for resisting tendencies in the secular culture which diminish respect for human dignity,” he remarked. “Those who want to live out their faith in the current environment will grow spiritually and morally by engaging the culture. This becomes a point of evangelization.”
Sister Mary Benedicta said that she can’t stress enough how critical it is for Catholic healthcare professionals to be a part of the guild.
“I think they will realize the importance of integrating their faith with their practice in a new way that they didn’t realize they were missing,” she remarked.