Today is the Solemnity of The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. So what does this have to do with Mission Doctor’s Association? A lot, actually. Let me tell you a brief story, if I may, a story over 2000 years in the making.
The Immaculate Conception, the long-held belief that the Blessed Virgin Mary, by grace, was conceived without the stain of Original Sin, is explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church1. Fast forward 1854 years to it’s official proclamation as dogma by Pope Piux IX2. Fast forward another 100 years to the proclamation of a Marian Year to commemorate the centenary of that dogma in 1954 by Pope Piux XII3. At this point, we must move from the Vatican to Lagos, Nigeria, where Cardinal James Francis McIntyre of Los Angeles presided over the first Marian Conference in Nigeria to commemorate this centennial year. When Cardinal McIntyre returned to Los Angeles in December, 1954, he left behind in Africa Monsignor Anthony Brouwers, the arch-diocesan director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Msgr. Brouwers spent 3 months traveling throughout Africa by plane, Land Rover, dugout canoe, and on foot to ask of mission bishops how he could be of assistance to them from Los Angeles. He expected to be requested by the Mission Bishops to return to L.A. and help raise money for the much-needed churches, hospitals, and schools; instead he was asked to send lay people. What he found there changed his ideas of mission fields. He found bishops delivering mail, driving trucks, and running printing presses. He found non-medical clergy and religious caring for orphans, delivering babies, and extracting teeth under a tree. The days of the clergy and religious were filled with medical and other secular work. He found a mission church burdened with these tasks, hindered in its primary responsibility to teach, instruct, baptize, and administer the sacraments. Msgr. Brouwers returned to Los Angeles and formed two Catholic lay-mission organizations, Lay Mission Helpers to send nurses, physical therapists as well as other non-medical laity, and with the assistance of the Catholic Physicians Guild of Los Angeles in 1959, Mission Doctors Association to send physicians4.
So ends that story and begins another. For 63 years now, Mission Doctors Association has trained, sent, and supported Catholic physicians and their families in service to people of all faiths at Catholic mission healthcare facilities around the world. They have provided medical care where it would not otherwise be available and trained local healthcare professionals to help make these facilities self-sustaining.
The need for physicians, dentists, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners who feel called to use their professional gifts as an expression of their faith continues. Those who are called to support this work and to pray for this ongoing effort makes that service possible.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
- New Advent
Fulgens Coronaencyclical of Pope Pius XII
- For We Are God’s Helpers,