The inaugural Catholic Medical Association Conference for Healthcare Students took place at Wesminster Cathedral Hall on 8 November. The opening address was given by Cardinal Vincent who spoke on the new evangelization, following the example set by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium.
He began by welcoming the students, some of whom had travelled great distances to attend the conference: 'It's a great pleasure to speak to you and, with the Holy Father, encourage you to share generously the joy of the Gospel, to enable others to encounter Jesus, so that their hearts and lives may be filled with the greatest joy.'
As a first step, he encouraged them to maintain a life of prayer and contemplation: 'As healthcare students, you can certainly be contemplatives, your gaze fixed adoringly on the face of Jesus; yet that doesn't mean your contemplation follows the pattern or a Carthusian monk or Carmelite nun.'
The Cardinal acknowledged the challenges they face: 'As evangelists in the world of healthcare you confront incredibly complex ethical questions. You need to give strong and courageous witness to the inviolable and instrinsic worth of every human life from conception to natural end. You will, and already do, face determined and sometimes aggressive opposition. Never let this deter you from engaging in debates about euthanasia, abortion, fertility, the just provision of care for all irrespective of financial means, age, or illness.'
He also spoke about the need to proclaim joy in sadness: 'You will encounter people enduring great suffering. Here your privileged vocation is to manifest "the Gospel radiant with the glory of the Cross": the Cross that bestows joy by effecting a healing beyond any purely physical cure.'
'As Christians in healthcare, be the healing touch of Jesus. Release from captivity the sick who can suffer an acute sense of loneliness, even when surrounded by hospital staff and fellow patients. The way you relate to those in your care is extremely important. Love your patients. It’s never just some body before you with whom you tinker as if a crashed computer. Rather always before you is someone, a person, body and soul, made in God’s image.’
He went on to say, 'When you can't cure the illness, always believe, and help others to believe, that you always remain, for the person, channels of healing.'
He concluded by pointing to ‘the constant need for evangelists to encounter Jesus afresh, to be ceaselessly evangelised by him. Yes, we are to be the presence of Christ for those suffering sickness. However, in them we also encounter and tend Jesus’ wounds: though we may not always realise it!’
A transcript of the entire address can be found here.