Just Gospel: Pope Francis Prays for Healthcare Workers in World’s Poor Countries

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

April 09, 2022

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on Pope Francis’ monthly intention of prayer for healthcare workers who serve the sick and the elderly especially in the poorest countries.

During the month of April Pope Francis gives us the following prayer intention:  We pray for health care workers who serve the sick and the elderly, especially in the poorest countries; may they be adequately supported by governments and local communities.  To inform our prayer, let us explore some examples and information regarding healthcare personnel and their care for the world’s poor.

Darya Naumova says this would typically be the most stressful time in her burgeoning career. The fourth-year medical student at Canada’s McGill University is in the middle of residency interviews, but she says it pales in comparison to what her family is going through under Russian bombardment in their native Ukraine.

Like millions of Ukrainians living outside the country, Naumova, who has lived in Canada since age 17, sprung into action to support her country after Russia launched an all-out invasion last month.  She and her colleagues quickly seized on a way to contribute, combining their expertise in trauma patient care with existing connections to healthcare workers in Ukraine to produce medical training videos to help respond to urgent needs during the conflict.

Naumova shared, “These instructional videos are something … we identified as a common ground where we can help.”

“You can be a dermatologist, an internist, a cardiologist, and you may have not done this procedure ever or it’s been a very long time. But now, during the war, you’re called upon to actually perform these life-saving procedures,” said Dr Dan Deckelbaum, the co-director of the video group.

–From an article on Al Jezeera by Jillian D’Amours

When considering healthcare for the world’s poor population, one may first think of Catholic Relief Services, and rightly so.  This extensive and effective organization is well known for its influence around the world.  Their website explains their aim to help improve global health.  “Catholic Relief Services provides medical supplies and innovative treatment to the world’s poorest people.  We support health care and training for health providers through hospitals, local clinics and churches.”  This same website contains a wealth of information about the ministry Catholic Relief Services provides.  You may wish to read further, so go to Catholic Relief Services (crs.org).

Another perhaps less known service group is Cross Catholic Outreach. 

They share their mission as follows:  Our mission is to mobilize the global Catholic Church to transform the poor and their communities materially and spiritually for the glory of Jesus Christ. We aim to serve the poorest of the poor by channeling life-changing aid through an international network of dioceses, parishes and Catholic missionaries. This cost-effective approach helps break the cycle of poverty and advance Catholic evangelization.

 This is another website worth exploring.  You can find it at Providing Medical Aid in Developing Countries | Cross Catholic Outreach  Since their information is helpful in getting a feel for what the Holy Father is concerned about, I will include some extensive quotes from their site.

Poverty and health issues are inextricably — and tragically — linked. In the developing world, many families cannot afford even basic medications, and residents of remote rural villages often struggle to reach distant hospitals and clinics.  At least half the world does not have access to essential health services.

Following Christ’s example of reaching out to the sick and poor, the Roman Catholic Church has long prioritized medical ministry, and serves as the largest nongovernment provider of health care services in the world.

From the day they are born, many impoverished children are at an immediate medical disadvantage. From there, an onslaught of deficiencies and environmental factors ravage the health of the poor. Without proper nutrition, children’s physical and cognitive development suffers, and more than one-fifth of all children under age 5 suffer from stunted growth.

Catholics have an incredible opportunity to honor Christ by caring for the sick! With this in mind, priests, nuns and lay missionaries are striving to bridge the gap between impoverished families and the medical healing they so desperately need.

Finally, we can consider a statement from the World Health Organization:

“Ultimately, health systems would break down without health workers. Their ability to deliver safe and quality care is not merely a profession they have chosen for themselves, but a life-long commitment to save lives and keep all of us safe from diseases.”

In all of this information, let us not lose sight of the needs of the healthcare workers themselves.  The need of the hour is to prioritize occupational health of health workers and ensure that the workforce is adequately cared for and healthy. Let us pray for these diligent and inspiring workers and for the ministry they heard from the lips of Jesus himself, “

I was ill and you cared for me.’  Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you ill and care for you?’  And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’  Matt. 25:36-40


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