Every summer for the past 26 years, Dr. Eli Ayoub, a physician at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, has embarked on a personal and professional mission, traveling to the Middle East — primarily to his native Lebanon, at times venturing to Syria and Jordan — to offer much-needed free healthcare to the needy, seeing up to 50 patients a day, working from morning until night, seven days a week.But while he may grow weary by day’s end, Dr. Ayoub’s spirit remains strong and uplifted, because intertwining his work and his faith is simply a way of life for this devout Catholic, who last weekend was honored for his dedication to his profession — both at home and abroad — as the 2013 National Catholic Doctor of the Year.“This is a great honor for my family and especially for St. Francis Hospital; it’s really very rewarding,” Dr. Ayoub told The Tidings following the Oct. 27 White Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, where he received the special honor from the Mission Doctors Association. “My Catholic faith has enriched my life and career and has made me the doctor I am.”The Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Mission Doctors Association co-sponsored the recent White Mass to honor all physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals, and to recognize extraordinary contributions to the healthcare field by Dr. Ayoub and others.Archbishop José Gomez presided at the special Mass, which also recognized Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Kathleen Ann DuRoss, R.N., an educator and cardiac clinical nurse (who was unable to attend the service), for her “extraordinary commitment to Catholic healthcare.” The Sister Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick, were honored for achieving their 85th anniversary of service in the Los Angeles area. The Sister Servants of Mary operate Mary Health of the Sick Convalescent and Nursing Hospital in Newbury Park, and have a house of formation in Oxnard.“Today we salute and honor you sisters as people who are gracious, gentle, dedicated to Christ, who bring a healing presence to all you serve,” said Holy Faith Sister Angela Hallahan, director of the archdiocesan Office of Health Affairs, as she called forward local representatives of the international Servants of Mary.Archbishop Gomez said the White Mass has special significance for him because his own father had been a physician.“[My father] always wanted me to be a doctor, but I guess God had other plans,” said the smiling archbishop, who described medical professionals as “the quiet missionaries of the culture of life.” “Your work is so important, so essential. In your profession you are called to be apostles of love,” he said. “In everything you do you bear witness to God’s love and care, with every patient and every person you meet. In healing people’s bodies and minds you make it possible for their souls to encounter the living God.”Dr. Ayoub, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon-St. Peter’s Cathedral in Los Angeles, echoed the archbishop’s sentiment about faith and healing going hand in hand, noting that how he cares for his patients is “the greatest way to preach the Gospel without saying a word.”“I did not become a physician for myself, but to help others,” said Dr. Ayoub, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) at St. Francis, and the first local physician to receive the Catholic Doctor of the Year award. “By caring for others,” he continued, “we show our love for God.”For Xavier Cagigas, Ph.D., who attended the White Mass with his wife Mayra Torres Cagigas, the service offered an ideal opportunity to “gather some strength” as he moves forward in his professional journey, and for his own spiritual growth.“As doctors we are always helping other people, and a lot of us are also out in our local communities trying to help,” said Dr. Cagigas, a neuropsychology professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and a parishioner at St. Sebastian Church in West Los Angeles. “It’s nice to come and be nourished in the Catholic community, because with everything that we do, rarely do we get a chance to be ministered to.”Near the end of Mass, Archbishop Gomez asked the scores of health care professionals in attendance to stand with their arms extended forward and their hands cupped in front of them to receive a special “blessing of the hands,” for strength, skill, sensitivity and steadiness in their day-to-day work with patients. “Prosper the work of their hands, O Lord,” prayed Archbishop Gomez.A yearly tradition since 2009, the White Mass is named for the distinctive white lab coats worn by many healthcare professionals, and is held near the Feast of St. Luke, patron saint of healers. This was the first year the Cathedral hosted the Mass.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/1101/whitemass/{/gallery}