‘White Mass’ for physicians planned Oct. 19

By Glenn Rutherford, Record Editor

Dr. Scott Hedges, a physician who is Senior Vice President of Medical Services for Seven Counties Services, attended a Catholic Medical Association conference last year and met two medical students that were attending the University of Louisville School of Medicine.

It turned out that all three were Catholics and after the conference, they began to correspond about forming a “St. Joseph’s Guild of the Catholic Medical Association” in the Archdiocese of Louisville. A similar attempt had been made a few years ago, Hedges said in an exchange of email messages last week. But that effort failed to materialize.

This latest one has, however. As a result, the newly formed St. Joseph’s Guild will sponsor its first “White Mass” at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Cathedral of the Assumption.

The Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, and all physicians are encouraged to wear their white coats for the Mass. It’s the white coats — worn by so many who work in the healing profession — that give the White Mass its name.

Hedges said that after the Mass a reception for physicians and health care workers will be held in the Cathedral’s Undercroft, and information about the St. Joseph’s Guild and the Catholic Medical Association will be available.

The way Hedges explained it, the new guild really began to develop when Hedges and a small group of physicians began talking regularly about its formation, and he raised the issue with his pastor, Father Paul Beach of St. Martin of Tours Church.

“The national association is very specific,” Hedges wrote in his email “that any guild that is forming must receive the support and permission of the local bishop.”

Father Beach helped to arrange a meeting with Archbishop Kurtz, Hedges explained, “and he was very supportive of our efforts.”

After meeting the archbishop, the group was “asked not to begin actively recruiting until after the archbishop had a chance to meet with the pastors of the diocese in August,” Hedges said.

Once that happened, he said, the physicians were able to send their application to the Catholic Medical Association, along with bylaws and the local guild’s charter. “We received a former letter of support from the archbishop and we began planning our first White Mass,” Hedges said.

According to Hedges, the “tradition of the White Mass in the United States finds its origins in the development of the Catholic Medical Association in the early 1930s.” The White Mass, he wrote, “gathers health care professionals under the patronage of St. Luke to ask God’s blessing upon the patient, doctor, nurse and caregiver alike.”

The Feast of St. Luke is Oct. 18, but the local guild members decided it would be better to hold this first White Mass on a Saturday (Oct. 19). “We felt it would be better for attendance and the archbishop would be available to preside and deliver the homily,” Hedges said.

And the Cathedral’s pastor, Father Jeffrey Nicolas “was gracious in letting us ‘piggy-back’ on the normal vigil Mass for that Saturday,” Hedges added.

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