Veteran sister-nurse, Minnesota doctor are honored at annual White Mass.Honoring the dedicated work of Catholic health care professionals, the annual archdiocesan White Mass drew 350 medical personnel and family members to Holy Family Church in South Pasadena Oct. 16.The event, co-sponsored by the archdiocesan Department of Health Affairs and the Mission Doctors Association, recognized the ministry of service provided by medical professionals and also bestowed special awards to two exemplary health care practitioners.This year’s awardees included Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Mechtilde Gerber, nurse and tutor of nursing at Daniel Freeman Hospital in Inglewood from 1959-2007, and Dr. Peter Daly, 2011 National Catholic Doctor of the Year, from St. Paul, Minnesota.In her welcoming remarks, Holy Faith Sister Angela Hallahan, archdiocesan director of health affairs, said that Jesus fostered in his disciples loving care for the suffering and the sick “in whom the Christian community recognizes the face of Jesus.“The Eucharistic celebration,” she continued, “recognizes you who do Christ’s work in alleviating the suffering of the sick. It is in your witness that you are, indeed, the guardians and servants of human life.”Noting humorously that the day’s Gospel reading about repaying to God the things that are God’s did not have anything to do with Jesus’ healing ministry, San Fernando Region Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Wilkerson, presider at the concelebrated Mass, spoke of the importance of congregants surrendering themselves fully to God.“It seems to me that our call is to give the totality of ourselves to God, all that we are, all that we have,” said the bishop. “[God] is calling us to be people of virtue, calling us to grow, calling us to be people who give 100 percent totally of ourselves to carry on his work of healing.”Following the distribution of Communion, all medical professionals in the congregation were invited to stand and extend their hands for a blessing by Bishop Wilkerson, who prayed: “Bless and guide these special hands with strength, skill, sensitivity, steadiness as they touch the joys and hopes, the grief and anxieties of their patients.” After the blessing, medical personnel processed to the front where they received a pin symbolizing their ministry of sacred healing.Sister Gerber, 93, was presented with a certificate of appreciation by the bishop in recognition of her outstanding dedication and commitment to Catholic health care service in the archdiocese of Los Angeles.Noting that Sister Gerber, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet for 67 years, was drawn to the mission of her congregation to serve the “Dear Neighbor Without Distinction,” Sister Hallahan said that the honoree fulfilled this commitment by serving at Daniel Freeman Hospital for 48 years as a surgical nurse and Director of Nurses. Sister Gerber also helped establish the ICU unit.“She is energetic and sensitive to the needs of the patient, their physicians as well as family members,” said Sister Hallahan. “It is fitting that she is honored at this Mass after her dedicated and loving service in this archdiocese to those in need.”In introducing the second awardee, Tom Liautaud, president of Mission Doctors Association, said Dr. Daly was selected as the 2011 National Catholic Doctor of the Year “because he has exemplified the practice of his faith in his life and in his practice and also for the work he has done with the Our Little Brothers and Sisters orphanage in Honduras” where he has organized numerous medical missions over a decade and founded the Holy Family Surgery Center aided by his wife, LuLu, RN.“I’m just so humbled being around all you health care professionals and all the religious who support the health care professions,” said Dr. Daly at the reception held in the parish center following the Mass. “Thank you so much and God bless all of you in your work in health care.”In her short speech at the reception, Sister Gerber also expressed her gratitude. “I was very fortunate in my life to work with the same group of nurses and doctors who took care of our patients with so much compassion and love,” said Sister Gerber. “Thank you very much and thank you for what you do.”Dr. Edward Malphus, past president of Mission Doctors Association who was on the medical staff at St. Francis as a young pediatrician, said he has had a long acquaintance with Sister Gerber. “I remember Sister Mechtilde walking down the hall in that white habit, always a smile on her face --- such a sincere person.”He added that she told him on the way over that “I’m not retired. I’m always doing something,” including accompanying retired religious sisters to doctor and hospital appointments. Sister Gerber’s family has a long history of serving the poor, especially ministering to the sick. Her mother helped found the Red Cross in Mexico.“This was a great event,” said Dr. Malphus, who was on the selection committee which sent out 1,000 national nomination requests for the National Catholic Doctor of the Year. “It’s amazing the number of living saints who are out there practicing medicine and demonstrating their faith through their practice.”Elise Frederick, executive director of Mission Doctors Association founded in Los Angeles by Msgr. Anthony Brouwers in 1959, said her nonprofit organization sending Catholic doctors and their families to serve at mission hospitals and clinics around the world is happy to co-sponsor the White Mass.“Each year since we started this again in 2009, it has grown,” said Frederick. “We’re hoping it will continue to do so and we’ll be able to reach out to everyone in health care and give them an opportunity to feel that not only can we celebrate, but we also can thank them for their ministry and their work.”“I think the White Mass is great,” said Dr. James Stewart, who has practiced internal medicine in Alhambra for 31 years. “We’re Catholic and we’re right-to-life, etc., and there’s so much opposition to us now. To get together and to pray together for something we all have in common is excellent.”First-time attendee Dr. Halline Overby, an oncologist who works at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood --- who left a celebrity event in the middle of a meal to come to the White Mass --- said he was glad he came. “I’m really grateful to have been here today and I think I got a lot out of this. It’s something that’s going to remain with me for a long time,” said Dr. Overby.“I thought the White Mass was just so inspirational,” said Gerald Kozai, president and CEO of St. Francis Medical Center. “I was so thrilled and fulfilled to see so many of the congregants get up and get their hands blessed and partake in the ceremony.”“I’ll be coming again next year,” said Richard Brandt, Protestant chaplain at Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park Medical Center. “It’s one way to collectively get together and reflect on how lucky we are in doing Jesus’ work. It’s just a wonderful way to be in community with others who put all our hearts into our patients.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/1021/wm/{/gallery}