Faith helps ease anxiety for Catholic medical personnel as virus peak nears

Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wis., recites a prayer while holding a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament during a Palm Sunday blessing for health care workers outside the entrance of St. Mary Medical Center in Green Bay. (CNS/Sam Lucero)

As the peak impact of the coronavirus pandemic is anticipated locally in the coming days and weeks, Catholic medical personnel are turning to their faith to find hope, comfort, and ease anxiety.

“This is truly a challenging time for believers and non-believers alike,” said Dr. Timothy Millea, president of the St. Thomas Aquinas Guild of the Quad Cities, one of four chartered guilds of the Catholic Medical Association in the Diocese of Peoria.

Dr. Millea

“Personally, I am anxious as a physician, I am anxious for my patients and co-workers, and I am anxious for my family and friends,” said Millea, an orthopedic surgeon and member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, Iowa. “We’ve never faced anything like this, and realize that taking a ‘pray for the best, plan for the worst’ approach is needed.”

Millea said that, shortly before the health crisis began, he finished reading a biography of St. Padre Pio.

“There could be no better time to repeat his well-known admonition throughout these troubling days: ‘Pray, hope, don’t worry,’” he told The Catholic Post. Millea’s own daily prayers often include the rosary, and to decrease anxiety he limits news watching to a half-hour each day.

SOLACE FROM MASS ONLINE

Meanwhile, Deacon William Scott, a specialist in preventative medicine and occupational medicine and member of St. Matthew Parish in Champaign, also noted the stresses being experienced in area medical personnel, patients, and their own families.

“From a medical perspective, it has been very challenging to prepare and maintain vigilance for the expected increase in COVID-19 infections in our area,” said Deacon Scott, who was among those instrumental in the formation last year of the Champaign-Urbana Venerable Fulton Sheen Guild of the Catholic Medical Association. “All doctors are coping with informational overload in their specific specialties in trying to maintain best practice standards for their patients.”

Deacon Dr. Scott

Deacon Scott said obtaining adequate personal protective equipment has been a challenge. Local medical personnel are working with the University of Illinois to help engineer new ways of developing the supplies, and area hospitals have approached businesses and industries for spare N95 masks.

“Personally speaking, I take great solace in attending daily Mass online, mostly through Facebook,” said Deacon Scott. “We’ve been fortunate in our area to have a lot of liturgies, Stations of the Cross, and other devotions online, and for me that’s been very helpful.”

“As a physician deacon with a background in public health and preventative medicine,” he continued, “I get to celebrate with our clergy and assist at weekend Mass, but also provide advice on best public health practices. “However, most of my time is working with my local hospital and medical group in keeping health care workers as safe as possible and guiding them in work practices that are safe for them and their patients.”

While Catholic Medical Association monthly educational seminars have been canceled because of social distancing needs, Millea said the Quad Cities guild has been emailing weekly updates to members with inspirational and spiritual content. The CMA national office offers a variety of coronavirus resources for health care professionals, clergy, hospital administrators, and the public on its website, cathmed.org.

There are also Catholic Medical Association guilds serving the Peoria and Bloomington-Normal regions.

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