samedi 30 avril 2011

Physician says helping Haiti is 'real, practical application of our faith'

By Karin Crompton
Publication: The Day
In the midst of describing a speech he will give on Sunday about Haiti, Dr. Anthony Alessi had to take a phone call. The Norwich neurologist and medical director of the William W. Backus Hospital was gone for several minutes before clicking back in to a telephone interview.
"That was a perfect example," he said.
Haiti, Alessi had been saying a few minutes earlier, has become "a real, practical application of our faith." His speech, scheduled for a post-Mass brunch at the Cathedral of St. Patrick and titled, "Haiti: Time for Change," will include anecdotes and slides on the change that Haiti has produced in the people who have been working there.
The call he received was from a volunteer who would be traveling to Haiti on Saturday. It represented the end of a series of emails and phone calls through which Alessi had sought the means to procure an expensive drug, unavailable in Haiti, that would treat a 15-month-old with a life-threatening inflammatory condition.
Through a network of volunteers, Alessi had found a wholesaler to supply the medicine, people who would pay for the drug and the volunteer who would take it to Haiti.
"We're gonna save a 15-month-old's life," Alessi said during a phone interview Friday. "Those are the things that happen among volunteers."
And despite accolades that they receive, he said, "I get much more out of every minute I spend there than I put in."
Although he has gained immeasurable perspective on his life, faith and career, Alessi nonetheless said one of the conclusions he has reached is that, "I don't think everyone should go to Haiti - but there are people throughout the world and even in the community who have become disconnected.
"We have people in downtown Norwich who need to be reconnected with. We have mentally ill patients and citizens, we have people who have become disenfranchised."
Haiti is simply Alessi's passion. And to those who question why some help Haiti when so much needs to be done here, Alessi has a question.
"What I say to those folks is, what have they done? … If they have reached out and done something good, then I would do whatever I can to support those people," he said. "By the same token, this (Haiti) has been an opportunity for me. Everyone has a different call to action. All I'm trying to say is, let's take some action."
Sunday's service is the annual White Mass, the Norwich Diocese's celebration of caregivers. It begins at 9 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Patrick at 213 Broadway in Norwich.
"This one is fascinating," diocesan communications director Michael Strammiello said of the White Mass. "There's something about seeing a church full of medical practitioners of all faiths, in prayer … recognizing that medicine has its limitations. Above those limitations, there are just other spiritual factors that play into making people well. It's fascinating to watch. … Then to gather together for lunch, to hear one of their own speak on a subject as important as Haiti, it's a very good day."
For more information, visit the diocese website at norwichdiocese.org or call (860) 887-3933.

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