On the same day a 19th century American Franciscan Nursing Sister was canonized in Rome, healthcare professionals serving in the U.S. and in mission hospitals and clinics around the world were honored at the annual archdiocesan White Mass at St. Jerome Church in Los Angeles Oct. 21.More than 300 doctors, nurses and allied healthcare providers gathered for the event co-sponsored by the archdiocesan Department of Health Affairs and the Mission Doctors Association. Our Lady of the Angels Region Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark presided at the White Mass celebration, where special awards for outstanding commitment to Catholic healthcare were presented to Daughter of Charity Sister Patricia Geoghegan and to Dr. Andres Enriquez, the El Paso-based recipient of the 2012 National Catholic Doctor of the Year Award.“At this Mass we pray, through the intercession of [newly-canonized] St. Marianne Cope, that your compassionate and selfless service in enhancing our health and human dignity be richly rewarded and continually blessed,” said Holy Faith Sister Angela Hallahan, archdiocesan director of health affairs.In his homily, Bishop Clark spoke of how the compassion of Jesus emphasized in Luke’s Gospel is “a sign that God is always with us, in our suffering, in our illness, in our dying and in our rising. God is with us because Jesus experienced those things as a human being.” The bishop added that God “knows what it is to be a doctor, to be a nurse, to be one who cares for one who is ill. He knows it because Jesus was a healer.”Reflecting on the Gospel reading (Mark 10:35-45) where Jesus tells James and John that “whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all,” Bishop Clark said that the Son of Man will sit on his throne with compassion and mercy.“I like to think that even though we don’t know who those two people will be sitting at the left and right of Jesus, I think very seriously it will be someone who’s spending their life entirely in compassion and care for others — maybe a doctor or a nurse, maybe someone in this church today,” said Bishop Clark.Following Communion, the bishop asked all those in healthcare to extend their hands for a blessing while he prayed: “Bless and guide, O Lord, these special hands with strength, skill, sensitivity and steadiness as they touch the joys and hopes, the dreams and anxieties of their patients. Prosper the work of their hands, O Lord.” Sister Geoghegan, this year’s recipient of the special award for outstanding service in the nursing profession, is a native Angeleno who attended St. Vincent School of Nursing and has served as a nurse and hospital administrator in the U.S., Angola, Ecuador and Haiti. A former chaplain for ten years at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles, Sister Geoghegan currently ministers at the Federal Correctional Institution in Phoenix to male inmates and to incarcerated females at the adjacent satellite prison camp.“A member of her congregation wrote: ‘Her compassion, prayerfulness, practical charity, organizational skills, concern and interest in others have brought the love of God to the sick, those living in poverty, her colleagues in ministry and the physicians who have been her collaborators,” said Sister Hallahan, sparking applause from the congregation.Sister Geoghegan told The Tidings she accepted the award on behalf of “all the sisters who work in healthcare in the archdiocese, because there have been so many from the beginnings of Los Angeles.”In introducing the National Catholic Doctor of the Year 2012 recipient, Elise Frederick, executive director of the Mission Doctors Association, said the association annually sends out thousands of nomination forms across the nation seeking Catholic doctor nominees whose life and work exemplify the teaching of the Church and the Hippocratic Oath and who also have “gone beyond even these to strive to be the presence of Christ in their own community or around the world.”“Today we are fortunate to have the opportunity to recognize a unique individual physician who, though young, has already given a great deal of his life in service to the poor,” said Frederick of the awardee, Dr. Enriquez, a 46-year-old family practice physician who was nominated for the faith-filled care he provides to his El Paso community as well as his volunteer service to the poor living in Texas border towns.“I’m very honored getting the award,” Dr. Enriquez told The Tidings at a post-liturgy reception in the parish hall seated at a table with his wife, Luisa, and four daughters aged 12, 10, 8 and 3. “I’ve been blessed with a lot, as you can see,” said the doctor who volunteers with the El Paso group “Siguiendo los Pasos de Jesus” (Following in the Footsteps of Jesus) serving the poor in Mexico and Honduras.“It’s truly his calling, it comes from the heart,” commented Luisa. “He feels very blessed and he wants to give back.”Dr. Donald Tschirhart, laboratory director at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Los Angeles, said the nursing award for Sister Geoghegan was well-deserved. “She is a person of unbelievable intelligence and practical skill,” said Dr. Tschirhart. “But more than that, she is able to completely put her ego aside and do the work that needs to be done no matter where it is in the world.”“I’m very happy to be part of the White Mass,” he added. “The Daughters of Charity have been very staunch supporters of the White Mass in its re-birth here in the last few years. I think it’s a good idea. We don’t have enough real fraternity amongst Catholic physicians or healthcare workers in Los Angeles, unlike what they have in a lot of cities.”“The number of people who stood for the blessing was really overwhelming,” commented Dr. Edward Malphus, a pediatrician and White Mass committee member. “There was one physician [in scrubs] who had to leave early after Holy Communion for her shift at the hospital. I was so pleased she came to the Mass knowing full well that she was going to have to leave and get to work.”People in the health care profession “are special,” he added. “There’s a reason that they’re called to that profession — it’s that good in them that they want to share with others. This profession really does bring out the good in people.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1026/whitemass/{/gallery}