There must have been something in the water – both Washington papers carried good articles about Catholics in service to Christ and his people this past weekend.
The Post did an online discussion with the author and two of the young people featured in the piece. It’s well worth a read, particularly for some of the more hostile questions which really vividly express the distinctions between Gospel-based loving presence with the poor and social work highlighted by Pope Benedict in Deus Caritas Est. (beginning with #19 to the end)
(BTW, I appreciated Mark Stricherz’s reflection on this article:
Yet the story shows indirectly how American Catholicism, rather than American society as a whole, which is the point of the story, has grown soft, self centered, and spiritually arid. This theme resonates with me. I know plenty of Catholics who make sacrifices every day – to exercise regularly, stay fit, save up for a vacation. They just don’t make sacrifices for their faith and God. The beauty of this story is to show what happens when you do – strength of soul, wisdom, peace and serenity, and the love of the most vulnerable.
(By the way…if anyone still has a hard copy of the magazine sitting around, could you send it to me? Email me and I’ll let you know my address.) Done! Thanks, Reader!
The waiting room — often packed — has a framed poster of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, and on the second floor there is a small chapel. Other than that — and the habit-wearing Sister Dede — the clinic looks like any medical office.
Well, with a few exceptions. The equipment is donated and looks aged. Sometimes it means working in substandard conditions — like when Sister Dede and medical resident Dr. Cory Chapman excised a patient’s ingrown hair and drained a cyst with a tiny scalpel blade without the holder.
“It’s bush medicine in the city,” says Sister Dede, holding the tiny blade.
The patient with the ingrown hair is a Mexican delivery man who speaks limited English.
“Lo siento, lo siento,” says Dr. Chapman, apologizing as he cuts out a cyst that surrounds the hair.
“You’ll hear us say ‘lo siento’ a lot,” says Sister Dede, who, in her very unique position, also has strong ties to Sibley Hospital in the affluent Palisades neighborhood of the city.
Many of the doctors with whom she went to medical school at Georgetown University have privileges there. So, now, whenever she needs an operating room, the hospital provides.
“Thanks to her, we have all the contacts at Sibley,” says Cecilia Alava, a retiree who volunteers at the clinic as an interpreter and also fills whatever other role is needed.
“Sister Dede is the best. Without her, the clinic would go down,” she says.
Sister Dede calls the hospital “St. Sibley.”
Which was where, last summer, she performed surgery on Marshet Zema, a petite native of Ethiopia with a beautiful smile.
When Sister Dede first met Ms. Zema, the 21-year-old had fist-sized keloids (lumps of scar tissue) behind her earlobes.
“We’ll remove these and create an earlobe,” said Sister Dede, tracing her thumb and index finger along the keloids at the June visit.
Ms. Zema had worn a scarf day and night for the past three years to cover up the deformity.
“Thank God,” said her brother, Desalane Zema.
“We have been to every hospital in the city, and no one will treat her because she doesn’t have health insurance,” Mr. Zema says.
Sister Dede, though, never discriminates.