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Health professionals honored as ‘Good Samaritans’

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SAN DIEGO — Cardinal Robert W. McElroy hailed healthcare professionals as modern-day “Good Samaritans” during a special liturgy held in gratitude for their often lifesaving work.

The diocesan Mass was held Oct. 15 at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Scripps Ranch.

Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, hospital personnel and others, along with their families and friends, were invited to attend the Mass, which was followed by a reception in the parish hall. Some of those in attendance wore their white lab coats.

The Gospel reading was Jesus’ parable about a man who fell victim to robbers, was beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite both saw the wounded man but avoided him by crossing to the other side of the street. A Samaritan man stopped, treated the man’s wounds and transported him to an inn, where he could be nursed back to health.

In his homily, the cardinal said it is easy to perceive the actions of the first two passersby as evidence of hardness of heart.

“We need to put ourselves in their shoes,” he said, noting that they were walking through what was known to be a dangerous area and could reasonably have wondered whether the man they saw was really wounded or whether he was merely “a lure” set by unseen robbers.

The Good Samaritan is “such a monumental figure for us for the type of love we are called to have in this world,” said Cardinal McElroy, because he was aware of the danger but took the risk anyway.

The cardinal said that, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare professionals showed themselves to be Good Samaritans, who treated others at great personal risk to themselves.

“You were Good Samaritans,” he told the congregation, “and so, I now want to thank you particularly – and I know that all of our society thanks you – for that great gift you gave to us, not only of your skill and not only of the healing that you accomplished, but also for the heroic witness of being Good Samaritans, and not thinking of yourself but thinking of those who lie by the side of the road, terrified, isolated and in need of help.”

Caroline Webb, 60, is a nurse with Scripps Health.

This was her first time attending a Mass celebrated especially for healthcare professionals, and she found it meaningful after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s significant in that we can be together without any masks, and celebrate, and also acknowledge what we do and how we serve our community,” she said.

Vincent Shallow, a 77-year-old clinical urologic surgeon, said he has been attending so-called “White Masses” for about a decade.

What does he take away from the Mass?

“I guess, mainly appreciation for what we do,” he said, “and it inspires us to go forward and continue doing our service to the community.”

Henry Ng, 72, has practiced family medicine since 1984. He retired from Kaiser Permanente in 2015 but continues to work as a per diem doctor.

Ng expressed his appreciation for opportunities like this, where healthcare professionals can meet and support one another. He explained that “it’s very challenging these days” to offer health care “in harmony with the Church,” citing issues like abortion and transgenderism.

“If you want to practice as a Catholic, it goes against the flow of our society and culture,” he said. “So, it’s nice to have a group like this, where you can meet other like-minded professionals for support and encouragement and to learn from one another.”

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