By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
LAKE CHARLES — The Most Reverend Glen John Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles, was the principal celebrant for the fourth annual “White Mass for Medical Professionals” in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday, October 22.
Concelebrating with Bishop Provost at the 9:30 a.m. liturgy was Very Rev. Edward Richard, M.S., Chaplain of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) St. Luke’s Guild of Southwest Louisiana for the Diocese of Lake Charles; Rev. Brian King, Director of Spiritual Care Services and Chaplain at Christus Ochsner St. Patrick Hospital; and Rev. Felix Okey Alaribe, Vice President of Integration for Christus Ochsner St. Patrick Hospital.
The White Mass receives its name from the white coats traditionally worn by those in the healing profession of medicine. It is often celebrated on or near October 18, the Feast of St. Luke, patron saint of physicians, to invoke God’s blessing upon the patient, doctor, nurse, and caregiver alike.
At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Provost prayed a blessing asking that God grant to physicians, nurses, and all health care professionals, wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience; keeping them safe and preserving them from all contagion.
Following the Mass, the St. Luke’s Guild of Southwest Louisiana hosted a brunch and presentation for medical professionals and their families in the Ave Maria Hall. Presenter was Father Whitney Miller, PhD, LPC, who spoke on “Tools, Techniques and Treatment for Trauma Recovery: Toward a Restoration of Self, Sanity, and Serenity in Southwest Louisiana.”
Acknowledging that the local community is in the midst of a post-trauma recovery season since Hurricane Laura, Father Miller emphasized that so many are in need of healing emotionally.
“One of the things uniting us as people of Southwest Louisiana is that we have all been traumatized, each and every one of us, and we continue to live in a state of trauma,” said Father Miller about the devastation caused by Laura and multiple natural disasters in the weeks and months following.
“If we could see each other and relate to each other with a sense of understanding, then our healing as a community and our recovery from the trauma that we have experienced together would be quicker and easier on us all,” he continued.
Father Miller said people experience trauma in any situation when they fear for their life or the life of someone they love, as was the case with Laura.
There are visible reminders still today across the five-parish region of the catastrophic storm that made landfall in August 2020.
“The challenge for us as a community of Southwest Louisiana now is to continue to truly help one another recover from these experiences of trauma, grief and loss,” said Miller while reminding those in attendance that, “Hurricane Laura is over. We survived. Now it is time to thrive.”
He went on to say, “What happens psychologically with trauma and with grief and loss is that if it is not dealt with sufficiently and emotionally when we experience it, then the next time a traumatic experience comes along, what is unresolved resurfaces.”
Father Miller told the medical professionals that it is important in the healing process for them to encourage their patients to get plenty of rest.
“Resting is important for the psyche to recover,” he said.
Father Miller also stressed the importance of giving people permission to “return home” to the heart of God.
Home for Father Miller is his interior home with God and said that those in the healing profession “need to encourage folks to return home as much as possible.”
One example he shared is the way he releases negative thoughts on his afternoon drive back to his rectory from Lake Charles to Sulphur.
“I allow myself to have all the negative thoughts of the day run through my mind until I reach the top of the Interstate 10 bridge,” Father Miller said. “Then I roll down my front passenger window and let all my negative thoughts out. The next morning, guess who is waiting for me at the top of the bridge,” he said drawing laughter from the audience.
Father Miller also encourages recreation and staying in routines to help keep people in a healthy state of mind.
While many at the brunch were familiar with the Serenity Prayer, Father Miller shared the long version that most had not heard of before. The second part of the prayer encourages people to live one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, and accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.
“If we accept hardship as the pathway to peace,” said Father Miller, “when we do experience hardship, we don’t think something has gone wrong.”
He ended his talk praying that “we all come home once again to the heart of our God as we walk together in healing and recovery.”