By Sr. Diane Forrest, OP
This week’s “Embracing Faith” article will focus on Embracing Faith through Ministry.
“'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
COVID-19 has presented many challenges across the globe, and women religious have responded valiantly to these challenges that the pandemic has brought. Many sisters who are nurses and doctors have put their knowledge and skill at the service of patients who contracted the virus, as well as educating others in practices that keep them safe from it.
One such woman is Sister Mary Flood OP, a Sister of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, New York.
Like many women religious, Sister Mary’s first ministry was teaching – both on the elementary and high school levels. She continued to study and was awarded a doctorate in Biology from New York University. For the next seven years, she worked in research on genetic diseases of the retina. Although she found her work interesting and stimulating, she felt there was something missing. She states, “I could never translate the work I was doing into care.”
This desire to be in direct service to others led her to Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons where she completed her medical education, residency, and did a fellowship in the field of Infectious Diseases. With her background in cell biology, she focuses on clinical infectious diseases, in particular HIV primary care and infections in immunocompromised patients at Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital where she is also an associate professor of medicine. Much of her work there has been with patients shunned by society due to their disease. Sister Mary comments that “Jesus was a physician; his ministry was marked by compassion and healing. I feel it’s a privilege to be in healthcare, to be with people in their pain and sorrow, in their doubt and fear.”
Sister Mary has been recognized as a “Super Doctor” in the New York Times Magazine and listed as one of New York City’s top doctors by New York Magazine.
She is well respected by her colleagues in the Division of Infectious Diseases who describe her as “a remarkable physician, colleague, friend, and individual.”
In 2015, Renew International, an organization that emphasizes both faith and action, chose her to receive the President’s Award bestowed on “one whose actions exemplify the Christian value of service.” In accepting the award, she responded: “It is very humbling to be recognized as someone who helps people encounter God in their everyday life.”
As a recently elected member of the Leadership Team in Blauvelt, Sister Mary still devotes a day a week to her patients at New York-Presbyterian and continues her medical practice in her Rockland County office. When the COVID-19 threat emerged, she was instrumental in developing a protocol here at the Motherhouse to insure safe practices were in place. All who live here are in a high-risk category. In particular, she monitored the Saint Martin De Porres Community, our infirmary.
I was a patient there recently, recovering from surgery. Since Sister Mary is also Medical Director there, she was present often. She also assumed the role of Minister of the Eucharist to help minimize the number of persons who visited the floor. This also included bringing Eucharist to sisters who were quarantined in the building. I attended the daily Mass via our television system, and day after day as I watched and waited for her to bring Eucharist, I couldn’t help but think how awesome it was that a doctor, a healer, was also the bearer of the Body of Christ. It moved me so very deeply. It is a story worthy of being told. It is reminiscent of another time, another Mary, a woman of faithfulness, a bearer of the Body of Christ.