New guild offers guidance for Catholic doctors, healthcare workers

By Jennika Baines
Sun Assoc. Editor

A new organization in Syracuse is offering support for those who work every day in the sometimes tenuous arena where faith and medicine meet.

The Blessed Marianne Cope Guild of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) offers support for healthcare workers who have devoted themselves both to healing others and to maintaining their Catholic faith. It is the 50th guild to be chartered through the CMA, and it was founded by Dr. Anthony Oliva and his wife Debra to respond to what they saw as a growing need.

“In recent years medicine has experienced tremendous technical advances that have greatly improved the quality of care we provide. This progress, however, has presented us with many new and complicated ethical questions. It can be very challenging to be a faithful Catholic physician in today’s medical environment,” Oliva said. “There is a tremendous need for spiritual formation and support in the field of medicine.”

Oliva pointed out that these are precarious times when it comes to ethics and morality. He started the guild this year after learning of the organization as a medical student in Boston. Oliva said one focus of the guild will be to provide resources and support to medical students.

“We hope to organize and host a Hippocratic Oath ceremony in the spring for any graduating medical student who wishes to take the authentic Hippocratic Oath,” Oliva said. “The original Hippocratic Oath contains language whereby the physician swears not to participate in abortion and euthanasia. The modern day Hippocratic Oath has been rewritten without this language.”

There are currently 25 members in the guild. The members include 19 physicians, one dentist, three registered nurses, one nurse practitioner and a social worker specializing in Christian counseling. Of the 19 physicians, their specialties include anesthesiology, emergency medicine, family medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, radiology and many other areas of medicine. Bishop James Moynihan has agreed to be the guild’s chaplain.

“We’re primarily oriented toward Catholic physicians who are interested in keeping in line with the church teaching,” he said. “We’re not a political organization. One thing we’re not going to do is we’re not going to be endorsing candidates or anything like that. We’re just there to support each other.”

Oliva said he wants to double the membership of the guild within five years. He also hopes the guild will sponsor an annual conference for physicians and healthcare professionals that incorporates both medical topics and Catholic faith beliefs. “We hope to become a strong and regular voice in the parishes of the diocese with respect to some of the more challenging issues such as artificial birth control, in-vitro fertilization, fetal cell vaccines and embryonic stem-cell research,” Oliva said. The guild also plans to coordinate volunteer opportunities for healthcare workers at places like Amaus Health Services and the Poverello Health Center.

“We hope to foster growth in the spirit of Christ in our personal and professional lives and enable Catholic physicians to know one another better and to support each other in our work,” Oliva said. “We also hope to be a valuable resource for the bishop, clergy and the Catholic hospitals in our diocese.”

The meetings are held the first Friday of each month and are open to all allied health professionals and clergy. Those interested in joining the Blessed Marianne Cope Guild can contact Oliva through his e-mail at AOliva1@twcny.rr.com. For more information on CMA, visit www.cathmed.org.

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