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SALT LAKE CITY — The local Catholic diocese will again honor those who work toward well-being and justice in society.
On Sunday, Bishop John Wester will celebrate the second annual White Mass held in the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City at the St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 1375 Spring Lane.
The White Mass, held in relationship with the Catholic Medical Association, honors those who work in health fields. During the service, Bishop Wester will bless those in health professions, and those in attendance will promise to continue to do no harm and serve their patients well.
The White Mass comes weeks after the seventh annual Red Mass, held this year on Sept. 5. During this Mass, Bishop Wester also honors and blesses those from the legal profession, including lawyers, judges and law enforcement.
"I think it's an opportunity to have an acknowledgment of the important functions that people serve for society, to have a blessing for those activities," said Maureen Condic, who plans to attend Sunday's White Mass. "Everyone likes the feeling of being endorsed … (and) receiving some kind of a blessing from their community from people about them who value what it is they’re contributing.”
Following Sunday's Mass, Condic, an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy labs at the University of Utah, will deliver a lecture on stem cell biology and its application to potential medical therapies.
I think it's always important to honor people who work in this profession. They have a very hard job. Sometimes decisions that they have to make are life and death decisions. There's (also) that struggle there that says, 'How do I best serve my patient without violating my conscience?'
–Veola Burchett, Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City director of family life
The White Mass is traditionally celebrated around Oct. 18, the same time as the feast day of St. Luke the Evangelist, the patron saint of physicians and doctors.
On Sunday, health professionals can network with others who face daily challenges of staying true to their consciences and at times making life-and-death decisions, according to Veola Burchett, the organizer of Sunday's Mass.
“I think it’s always important to honor people who work in this profession. They have a very hard job. Sometimes decisions that they have to make are life and death decisions," said Burchett, Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City director of family life. "There's (also) that struggle there that says, 'How do I best serve my patient without violating my conscience?'"
During Red Mass, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and members of law enforcement came together to reflect on how to best work toward justice, said defense attorney Ron Yengich.
"Our purpose, is to bring people together from divergent backgrounds who are more likely to be in court fighting with one another or arguing in front of people, and say, 'Let’s kind of relax and really realize that we’re working all for the same thing, which is for justice,'" he said.
The Mass attracted many who are not Catholic but were "impressed not only with the liturgy of the church but … the idea that we're there to look across the pews and see, 'Well, that's a prosecutor that I don't really get along with,' but in reality, I mean, our goal is the same," Yengich said.
Yengich, Michael Kennedy with the U.S. Attorney's Office and juvenile court Judge Christine Decker work to bring those in the legal community together, regardless of their religion.
“These are difficult jobs and people want to do them very well, and they want to give public service, and they want to promote justice," Decker said. "And so it’s important for people to come together at least for a short period of time and reflect on the principles which they use in order to guide themselves through the administration of justice. If you don’t have faith, it gives you some exposure to guiding principles to help you through those difficult times."
Priests at the Red Mass wear red vestments, or clothing worn by clergy during services, to symbolize the Holy Spirit.
Each year they honor judges, attorneys, military personnel and officers who have either retired or passed away over the previous year. Those who try to promote justice daily were given an opportunity to reflect on their vocation during the Mass, Kennedy said.
"I think the Red Mass is more of a reflection of attitudes instead of something that changes," he said.