Friday, January 16, 2009


Hope is a word that we have been hearing a lot lately.

As a verb…to wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment / to look forward with confidence or expectation
As a noun…a wish or desire accompanied by confident expectation of its fulfillment, and for the faithful, the theological virtue defined as the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain with God's help.

It is both the action of confident expectation, and the actual virtue that allows us to have that confidence. It is this faith, that with God nothing is impossible, that gives me hope when things may seem unachievable.

In my office I have had two posters up for many years to remind me of that fact. One with the quote of Julian of Norwich ‘All shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.’ The other Margaret Meade “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

I have to take actions that bring about a better world tomorrow, confident that inch by inch, step by step, it can be achieved. There are patients who seek care at mission hospitals and clinics for whom hope comes in the form of a Mission Doctor. Their expectation that they or their family member will receive care is exactly that, hopeful. There are many obstacles to that hope. Distance from the hospital, ability to travel, their families ability to make the sacrifices to accompany them. Yet they come, they hope.

My prayer for 2009 is that we each grow to be more hopeful ourselves. Hopeful in a future where there is peace between all people and where all peoples basic needs are met. We can begin and then help ignite a spark of hope in others through our daily actions, difficult but not impossible to attain with God's help.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A New Year- Looking Back 50 Years

1959 President Eisenhower welcomed Alaska and Hawaii as the 49th & 50th States in the Union.

Castro became president of Cuba.

A chartered plane transporting musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper crashed in Iowa, killing all 4 occupants on board, including pilot Roger Peterson.

Ben Hur premiers, Walt Disney releases Sleeping Beauty, and The Twilight Zone begins on CBS.

Pope John XXIII announces that the Second Vatican Council will be convened in Rome.

And here in Los Angeles, working with the local Catholic Medical Community, Msgr. Anthony Brouwers begins the work of Mission Doctors Association to recruit, train, send and support Catholic Doctors and their families for mission hospitals and clinics.

There have been a lot of changes in 50 years. Technology has made our world smaller. We can communicate in an instant where it once took months to send aerogram letters. Travel, while we may complain about the delays - can still be accomplished with relative ease – (First lay missionaries went by ship to Africa!)

However, one thing hasn’t changed – the need at mission hospitals and clinics for qualified medical personnel who can offer direct patient care and training for the local medical staff. Dick Stoughton, on returning to Zimbabwe in 2000, after being away for 25 years noted some improvements in universal immunization increased availability of potable water and sanitation. However the overwhelming scourge of HIV/AIDS and resurgence of TB were still being addressed by a decreasing number of medical professionals, even at that time – a situation which has worsened.

This ‘smaller world’ has also opened the eyes of a lot of people about these needs, and the fact that what impacts people in one place may well impact all of us.

Many of the supporters of the work of Mission Doctors have been here since these early days. There is no way this organization would have survived without their dedication to the work. I am as inspired by their generosity as the courage of those who have made the commitment to serve. I have always seen this partnership as the vital link. These people never hear the thanks, never see the babies or grateful parents.

So, 2009 is a big year for looking back on 50 years of service by Mission Doctors, and also looking forward. We need to begin the work of answering the increasing number of requests from Missionary Bishops for our doctors. We need to prepare, send and support them in their work, so someday someone else can say, as they are looking back, not on half a century of service but a full 100 years of dedicated care, an honorable legacy for Msgr. Brouwers.