Light shines bright in the darkness! One highlight among the COVID doldrums has been the heroism of so many Catholics and others in our nation’s hospitals and doctor’s offices.
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
In particular, I often receive updates from the faithful Newman Guide colleges, and they have been full of stories about valiant alumni on the frontlines. These men and women are putting their lives on the line for the good of their fellow man, and they draw strength from their years of Catholic formation in faith, truth and virtue.
One such hero is Dr. Thomas Heyne, a graduate of the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas. He is treating patients with COVID-19 at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
“Caring for patients suffering from COVID-19 has been challenging,” he says. “It takes courage, charity, patience and endurance — even simply wearing those N-95 masks for prolonged periods is physically painful.”
That’s all the more reason that Heyne is “grateful for UD for helping to foster those virtues — first imbued by my parents — while I was in my first years as an adult.”
“My four years at the University of Dallas were some of the happiest, most positively forming years of my life.” He explains:
First, the premedical formation in the sciences was quite strong, and helped to open the way to a good medical school and residency program…
Second, the academic habits that I learned at UD served me well in medical school and beyond. All students are required to complete a large cadre of humanities courses in the core curriculum. These humanities courses honed my skills at reading critically and writing convincingly.
Third, the humanistic virtues that were inculcated at UD have helped me be a more compassionate physician. I was blessed to have friends who cared about their faith, about living a life of virtue (including the practice of charity). But also, friends that were normal and fun. I learned how to socialize and have fun (e.g., after finishing exams) in a way that was healthy and wholesome.
Finally, Heyne credits extracurricular activities, such as spring break trips to Mexico and student leadership positions, for helping him develop as a person and even discern his calling to medicine.
Another doctor responding to COVID-19 is Dr. Mark Kissinger, medical director for Jefferson County, Ohio, which includes his alma mater Franciscan University of Steubenville. The county has not seen a large surge in patients, but Kissinger’s days are occupied with “disaster planning, tracking patients with the disease and educating the public.”
Kissinger says his education is impacting the way he does his work. “My Franciscan education has taught me to remember that we are dealing with people, not statistics and cases. As such, all people deserve respect and dignity as God’s own.”
Claire Pedulla, a registered nurse in an intensive care unit at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, discovered her calling to medicine while on a Benedictine College mission trip to Saint Lucia. She told her alma mater that the words of one of her professors have helped her greatly during this difficult time: “You are God’s earthly hands, eyes, ears and words. You are caring for his most vulnerable children. Show your servant heart for his work.”
Katie Ellefson, a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, is now a nurse in a Virginia hospital, where her entire floor was turned into a COVID unit. She explained to the College that nurses are often the “only people who are physically coming into the room to check on these patients,” and they are “generally more lonely, scared, and anxious than our typical patients.”
“Being able to be the person who can go in there and cheer them up and make their stay even just a little better has honestly been such a gift,” she says.
Surely her patients are at least as grateful for Ellefson and her Christian heroism! The work of these graduates and so many others is a great blessing and inspiration, and it reflects well on the faithful Catholic education that they received.
May God bless all who are keeping us healthy in these dangerous times, and may he protect them as well.
This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.