At 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 12, the Diocese of Buffalo will continue the tradition of holding the White Mass, an annual event to recognize health care professionals in Western New York, at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo. In the diocese, the Buffalo guild of the Catholic Medical Association supports and brings together Catholic doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who have committed themselves to caring for all patients to the best of their ability, while also following rules of Catholic doctrine.
After the Mass, there will be a luncheon at the Adam's Mark Hotel. The event's guest speaker, Bishop Richard J. Malone, will give a presentation on "Moral Courage in Medicine" to attendees.
The CMA is in the United States and Canada, but until it was officially chartered in 2015, the Buffalo guild was called St. Luke's Physicians Guild, named for the patron saint of physicians. Membership in Buffalo's CMA is not restricted to only doctors, but also anyone else, whether clergy or laypeople, involved in the field of health care. The group meets regularly to discuss relevant issues and pray.
"The national organization provides an educational conference every year, and then there are 100 guilds across the nation, so we are one of 100," said Dr. Gloria Roetzer, the Buffalo guild's president, a pediatrician at Williamsville Pediatric Center. "Because the national one is for all health care workers - it's not just physicians - we wanted to keep the medical association so that people who are psychologists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, anybody in health care who wants to learn the ethics of medicine that are in keeping with the Catholic Church, then they are welcome. It's not just physicians."
As the guild's president, Roetzer said the organization is encouraging more community outreach and has been holding presentations on related topics at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Williamsville. "We did one on physician-assisted suicide," she recalled. "We did one on intrauterine development of the child, abortion and the aftermath of abortion, and then recently, someone did one on physicians who are known saints."
In December, the guild also held a seasonal reflection for Advent and was planning to discuss the issue of medical malpractice, and a meeting on "Advances in Health Care (Better than Human or Less than Human)" was scheduled to take place after a to-be-determined 8 a.m. Mass in January. CMA's national conference, held in different locations annually, will take place Sept. 7-9 in Denver this year.
Rose Caldwell, director of communications and public relations for Catholic Charities, noted that Sister Mary McCarrick, OSF, diocesan director of Catholic Charities of Buffalo, and Roetzer worked together when Sister Mary was a social worker. "Dr. Gloria had gone through our educational workforce program," Caldwell said. "She came back into the picture, and then she became a pediatrician. As a former client, we've had her and she has been willing to do testimonials, like through our video, and she has spoken (for us)."
According to Roetzer, the CMA membership is active and dedicated, but fairly small, and she attributed this to many people in the Buffalo area not knowing what the organization is, or that it exists.
"I think some people think we are Catholic Medical Partners, that it's part of, 'Oh, that's the group that belongs to Sisters Hospital,' but it's not," Roetzer explained further. "This is for anybody - it's not any one hospital or any one parish. It's just for any Catholic health care worker, that they can learn about their faith and learn about ethics. At our White Mass, I will be presenting snippets from the national conference."
As a mother and grandmother, Roetzer said her job as a pediatrician, including caring for young patients and working with their parents to provide them with the best possible care, has made her look at social issues Catholic leaders have addressed in a different way. When asked to define what she feels is the most important part of her job, Roetzer said it is being able to guide parents in terms of raising children.
"I have nine grandchildren myself, right now, so I think I have a little bit of experience under my belt. When you're first a pediatrician, most of the time you don't even have children, so you don't know what it's like. You haven't walked in their shoes. I think now I can see things from their perspective better, since I have that experience, so I can give them that maternal advice instead of just health care," she said.