History of the Guild

Background:  The founding of the Guild grew out of discussions between Bishop Gregory Aymond and Jan Patterson Taylor, MD. With the encouragement and support of Bishop Aymond, Dr. Patterson recruited Roger Harden, MD to help gather initial members. The founding organizational meeting was held on Wednesday, October 18, 2000, at the Chancery of the Diocese of Austin. Twelve physician members were present. Initial officers elected were Roger Harden, MD—president, Douglas Terry, MD--president-elect, Joseph Leary, MD--vice-president, Jan Patterson Taylor, MD—secretary, and Christopher Dehan, MD--treasurer.  When Dr. Terry declined advancement to the presidency, Dr. Harden was asked to continue in his stead. David Zientek served as the second president of the guild. He was followed by Dr. Frank Mazza.  Activities in early years included a yearly White Mass, usually on or near the Feast of St. Luke, and a Christmas party, in December. In addition, the guild sponsored two to three conferences and lectures per year, often coordinated with the diocese or with the pro-life ministry. These ranged from one hour to three days in length. Usually there would also be one faith-building event, such as a half-day retreat, a Lenten meditation, or attendance at a movie, such as The Passion of the Christ.

Deacon David Boren approached James Davis and Diana Resnik, executives with the Seton Healthcare Family in December of 2009 to request alignment of Seton Healthcare Family with the Catholic Physicians Guild.

James recruited Dr. Frank Mazza, VP and Patient Safety Officer to join the support team and Alicia Robertson Director of Mission Integration to provide staff support for physician spirituality sessions scheduled in alternating months in 2010.  James and Seton supported the ongoing meetings of the Board of the Catholic Physicians Guild during their every other month business meetings, with a focus on increasing membership, scheduling events to attract Catholic Physicians  and healthcare professionals, and providing the alternating spirituality sessions facilitated by Alicia.  Cindy Chavez, Director of Seton Physician Relations also provided ongoing support and a budget for engaging physicians and increasing the membership of the Guild.

Preparations for the October 2010 White Mass were led by Dr. Lee Frierson-Stroud in collaboration with Dr. Mazza, James Davis, Alicia Robertson , Dr. David Zientek, Cindy Chavez and other members of the Board.   Fr. Charles Bouchard SVP for Theological Formation at Ascension Health was recruited to concelebrate the White Mass with Bishop Joe Vasquez and to provide a talk entitled ARS Moriendi:  Spirituality and the Art of Dying.    The White Mass was celebrated on October 20,th   2010 at St. Mary’s Cathedral with a reception following in the Bishop’s Hall, and Fr. Bouchard offered his talk on October 21st   in the McFadden Auditorium at Seton Medical Center Austin. 

In April 2011, Fr. Frank Zlotkowski offered a talk on Anointing of the Sick, with a focus on engaging the role of the physicians and staff in the Sacrament.  Cindy Chavez supported building a Website for the Catholic Physicians Guild designed and hosted at the Seton Healthcare Family.  Karen Perry and other nurses who had traditionally supported the White Mass were engaged to recruit associate members to the CPG from the nursing and therapist communities.
The White Mass was offered on October 17, 2011, and celebrated on the Feast day of St. Luke at the St. Mary’s Cathedral, with Bishop Joe Vasquez presiding and with the reception following in the Bishop’s Hall.

Bishop Vasquez provided a talk on “Health Care as Ministry” sponsored by the Guild on January 12, 2012 for a large group of physicians, staff, and members of the Catholic Community.  The Guild continues to discuss strategies for increasing membership and participation, including physicians, nurses, therapists and all Catholics working in healthcare settings.  A name change had been a focus for nursing and allied health prospective members, something more inclusive than Catholic Physicians Guild was desired.

The White Mass was cancelled for October 18, 2012 and rescheduled for February 11, 2013 the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick at the Bishop’s request.

 John Haas, President of the National Catholic Bioethics Center was scheduled to provide a talk for the Catholic Physicians Guild on November 7, 2012 funded and supported through Seton Healthcare Family’s corporate membership.  The talk, entitled “Provider Conscience and Patient Autonomy” was supported with Ethic’s CME and was well attended by 50 physicians, residents, dentists, nurses, and others in the Catholic community. 

The Guild provided support in December for the JP II Life Center ”Let Freedom Ring” event in support of the Vitae Clinic. 

The January 16, 2013 meeting of the Catholic Physician Guild Board and Membership focused on the ongoing discussion regarding evolving the structure of the CPG to accommodate broadened membership and increased interdisciplinary diversity.  The discussion included changing the name of the group and certain bylaws to support and encourage an increased membership among Catholic healthcare professionals and works.  Officers of the Board had discussed the idea with the Bishop and he has approved moving forward.  The Board landed on” The Catholic Healthcare Guild of Central Texas” as the new name, and a letter was written to the Bishop requesting the changes to name and bylaws.    Bishop Joe Vasquez sent a letter of approval for the proposed changes January 28, 2013.

 The 12th Annual White Mass was offered Monday, February 11, 2013,  with Bishop Joe Vasquez presiding and a reception following at the Chancery. 

Changes to name for the website, marketing materials and business cards were supported by Seton Healthcare Family.  The Board worked through the spring of 2013 to make all the changes necessary and prepare for the election of officers in June.  Board members were assigned professions to recruit and assigned to their parishes to spread the word about the change to The Catholic Healthcare Guild.

Some members of the Board were able to attend the St. Gianna Enshrinement at the Vitae Clinic on April 16, 2013.  The event was designed to provide Catholic physicians spiritual guidance and support in their work, and spread devotion to St. Gianna and promote her as an example for healthcare workers to imitate.

The Board made the decision to hold a membership meeting to approve the changes to the bylaws, vote in a new slate of officers as well as provide a formation opportunity for the June 2013 meeting.  The formation offering, “Your Call to Healthcare….Connecting Spirituality and Work” was facilitated by Joe Barry, Director of Mission integration for the Seton Healthcare Family on June 5th at 5pm in the Clinical Education Center.  Officers were voted in, bylaws accepted and the new name affirmed prior to the start of the formation session.    The new president David Fleeger MD and the new Vice President Cari Henry MD, the secretary Karen Perry RN, and treasurer Michelle Hill RN were all named. 

A CHG membership event entitled “Ask the Ethicists” focused on issues at end of life included a panel with Dr. David Zientek MD, Cardiologist with Ethics degree from Loyola, and Fr. Lou Brusatti, Associate Professor of Religious and Theological Studies and Director of the Center for Religion and Culture at St. Edwards University and member of the Seton Healthcare Family Ethics committee.  The event was scheduled for September 19, 2013 at Casa Chapala restaurant and was attended by over 80 physicians, nurses, therapists and others. 

On November 9, 2013, the board and membership participated in a service event, the painting of the Seton Topfer Clinic.  The Seton Healthcare Family provided the paint and Karen Perry recruited a painter from the Seton team to oversee the work.   The staff provided food for the crew and the event was very productive, all the painting was completed.

The White Mass Preparations for Feb 11, 2014 were completed to transform the previous format into a healing mass that includes anointing of the sick as well as a blessing for those working in healthcare.   This included a change of venue to St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, as well as all the arrangements to receive and support those seeking anointing and their families.   An article in the Catholic Sprit and the Epistle and Update resulted in considerable interest in attendance with 30 signed up for anointing through a process coordinated by the Office of Worship, Diocese of Austin.  Unfortunately there was an ice storm and the Mass was cancelled by the Bishop.

The Catholic Healthcare Guild offered a program “Medical and Spiritual Reflections on Jesus’ Crucifixion” entitled “Were you there when they crucified the Lord?” in the Seton Medical Center Chapel on Thursday, April 10th, 2014 at 6pm.  Four members of the Guild gave talks on the medical and spiritual aspects of the Scourging, Crucifixion, and Piercing with the Lance, and Resurrection.   Fr. Frank Zlotkowski led the offering.  Afterwards, attendees had a social hour and meal at Santa Rita Cantina.  Fr. Frank Zlotkowski was welcomed as a Board Member and chaplain for the Catholic Healthcare Guild in May 2014, when Fr. Albert LaForet resigned.

The CHG, Seton Healthcare Family, and St. John Neumann Catholic Church hosted a talk by Dr. John Haas; President of the National Catholic Bioethics Center entitled “The Face of the New Eugenics” on Tuesday July 8, 2014.  Continuing Medical Education Units (CME) for Physicians and Continuing Nursing Education (CNE) for Nurses were offered, with 24 physicians and 11 nurses receiving continuing education units.   The focus was on In Vitro fertilization practices that drive decision-making around selection of the “perfect baby”, conflicts among stakeholders regarding disposition of embryo, and how Insurance Companies and Governmental agencies could use genetic information to make decisions about excluding coverage for “defective” babies and their moms.

The CHG co-sponsored a Texas Catholic Conference (TCC) Conference entitled:  Preparing for the Hour of Our Death:  Principles and Policies for End-of-Life Care, on October 9, 2014.   Dr. David Zientek, CHG Board member was a panelist for a segment on “Current Law and Application of Law”, and Dr. John Haas PhD, President of the NCBC provided the keynote around “Church Teaching on End-of-Life Care”.  CHG Board members worked with the Seton Physician Continuing Education and Nursing Education Departments to obtain and provide CME and CNE units for these two offerings.

The CHG sponsored an evening event with Bishop Joe Vasquez entitled “Nurturing a Compassionate Heart” on October 16, 2014.  CHG Members, community members and Seton Healthcare Family leadership was in attendance.

Karen Perry RN, CHG Board member negotiated with St. John’s University to attend the January 14, 2014 meeting to discuss possible participation in the St. John’s Bible programs.  Karen reached out to Seton’s Mission Department and Joe Barry and Carl McQueary attended the meeting as well to learn more and to explore the SHF interest in any of the programs.

The 14th Annual White Mass on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes with a Rite of Anointing for the Sick, sponsored by the Diocese of Austin and the Catholic Healthcare Guild of Central Texas was held on Wednesday February 11th, 2015 at St. Louis King of France Catholic Church.  Fr. Frank Zlotkowski CSC, CHG chaplain presided at the event along with Fr. Jamie Misko (pastor) and Fr. Richard Tijerina, and Fr. Lou Brusatti.  The event was very well attended and the anointing of the Sick was a meaningful addition to the Blessing for Healthcare Workers.

A Lenten event “Were you there when they crucified the Lord? Medical and Spiritual Reflections on Jesus’ Crucifixion” was sponsored by the CHG at 6pm on March 26th at the Maxwell Chapel, Dell Children’s Medical Center. Fr. Frank Zlotkowski, Chaplain to the CHG presided.  Four members of the Guild Board gave talks on the medical and spiritual aspects of the Scourging, Crucifixion, and Piercing with the Lance, and Resurrection.

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