CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Remembering the time of SARS

HONG KONG (SE): Catholic medical groups marked the 15th anniversary of the removal of Hong Kong on 23 June 2003 from the list of areas affected by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic with a a Mass at St. Teresa’s Church, Prince Edward Road, on July 14. 
Organised by the Hong Kong Catholic Nurses Guild, the Guild of St. Luke, St. Cosmas and St. Damian Hong Kong, the Diocesan Commission for Hospital Pastoral Care and the Bioethics Resources Centre of the Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy, the Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, Jesuit Father Marciano Baptista and other priests of the diocese.
Father Baptista recalled that he, together with four other priests, was assigned to the hospital to anoint SARS patients after he wrote a letter to the diocese volunteering to do so. He trained at Caritas Hospital first to learn the proper hygiene and protection protocols to prevent becoming infected and began ministering to patients in May that year. 
Father Baptista remembered that every time he attended a patient, he needed to put on protective clothing that covered his body so completely that no one knew that he was a priest. He had to hang a big orange cross around his neck so that people knew he was there perform religious service. 
“I was scared but God gave me strength to overcome my fear,” he said adding he believed he had a responsibility to help. 
Bishop Ha spoke about the story of one medical worker who said that even though many hospital staff preferred to live in the dormitory to avoid spreading the disease to their families, his wife hoped that he could come home every day as she wanted to ensure that he was safe and believed that her love could help him.
The bishop said the story shows that there are some values which are greater than one’s life, such as love. He encouraged those present to respond to the calling of God in spite of the difficulties they face. 
Doctor Lai Bo-san from the Prince of Wales Hospital, expressed gratitute that he witnessed miracles. He recalled that there was a patient in serious condition who finally recovered after he, together with the medical team, put in a lot of effort. 
The SARS outbreak in Hong Kong resulted in over 200 deaths. 

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