Photos and story by Tim O’Neill

On October 27 physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals gathered at St. Therese of Carmel parish to celebrate San Diego’s first White Mass. More than two hundred filled the church for the Mass named for the white coats and uniforms worn by medical workers.

Bishop Cirilo Flores, coadjutor of the San Diego diocese, celebrated the Mass, joined by seven San Diego priests who concelebrated. The choir of St. Therese of Carmel sang, in Italian, a hymn dedicated to St. Gianna Molla.

San Diego’s White Mass kicked off as politicians and Church leaders continued to debate the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services mandate. Bishop Flores commented, “Our religious liberty must be protected when we walk out the [church] doors, so that we can live our faith without compromising our religious convictions.”

Highlighting the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop Flores challenged those in the medical community to strengthen their faith and find the courage to ask of themselves, “Do we believe truly that we can transform a culture of death? Do we believe that we can transform the hearts of people so that human life from the moment of conception to natural death is protected and respected and revered and held sacred?”

Following Mass, attendees had the opportunity to venerate a first-class relic of Saint Gianna and the stethoscope she used in the care of her patients. Dr. Theresa Stigen, a physician trained in natural procreative technology from Mystical Rose Obstetrics and Gynecology in Fallbrook commented, “St Gianna has always been kind of a role model for me.”

A reception followed the Mass where attendees heard from event organizers Thomas McKenna, founder and president of St. Gianna Physician’s Guild, and Dr. George Delgado, medical director of Culture of Life Family Services.

Mr. McKenna highlighted St. Gianna’s description of a physician’s role as a “priestly mission” saying, “Just as the priest can touch Jesus, so we doctors touch Jesus in the bodies of our patients, in the poor, the young, the old, and children.” McKenna said that St. Gianna’s description of the medical vocation is at the center of St. Gianna Physician’s Guild because, “It goes totally contrary to the secular and humanist idea of what medicine is portrayed as today. This aspect of medicine being a “priestly mission” involves caring for the soul as well as the body.”

Drawing upon his personal conversion, Dr. Delgado challenged his colleagues saying, “I want to make a special appeal to any of you out there who are, or know people, who are in any way involved in participating in abortions, contraception, euthanasia, or sterilization. I want to ask you to take this opportunity as an invitation to stop doing that and to live your professional life in accord with your faith life.”

At the conclusion of his homily, Bishop Flores thanked the medical professionals saying, “Thank you so much, those of you who I see here, who in very different ways and many times in hidden ways do what you can to protect the baby still in mommy’s womb.”