Bishop Galante to present St. Luke Awards at White Mass

Bishop Joseph A. Galante will recognize the service to Catholic health care by three individuals with the presentation of the St. Luke Award at the annual White Mass for Healthcare Workers on Sunday, Oct. 24, 1 p.m., in the chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden.

Bishop Galante will be the principal celebrant. The event is co-sponsored by the Diocese of Camden and the South Jersey Catholic Medical Association. A reception, sponsored by Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center will follow the Mass.

The St. Luke Awards recognize individuals who exemplify the tradition of Catholic health care in southern New Jersey. This year three individuals will be recognized. They are Catherine A. Michon, M.D., Josephine M. Heisler, R.N., and Joanne R. Thomas, Esq.

Father Lawrence E. Polansky, the keynote speaker, will discuss “A Journey in Service and Journey in Faith.”

Father Polansky, 46, graduated from Bishop Eustace Preparatory School, Pennsauken, in 1982 and Albright College, Reading, Pennsylvania in 1986 with a BS in biochemistry. He worked for several years at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center and Cooper Hospital in Camden, and also at the University of Pennsylvania as a medical technologist in chemistry, immunology, hematology, immunohematology and histocompatibility before moving to Maryland in 1995. While in the Baltimore area, he worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, and St. Joseph Medical Center, Towson, in flow cytometry in a combined clinical and research lab and in immunohematology at both facilities.

In 2003, he returned to New Jersey, studying for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. He was ordained by Bishop Galante, on May 16, 2009. He is currently assigned as parochial vicar to St. Isidore the Farmer Church in Vineland. A particular joy in his ministry is visiting those in the hospital and nursing homes.

The White Mass is scheduled each year on a Sunday near the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, who tradition holds was a physician. It is intended to honor all who provide health care within the diocese. All healthcare workers and their families are invited to attend.

Catherine A. Michon was born in 1928 in Schenectady, N.Y. After graduating in 1950 from the College of St. Rose, she remained at the college as an assistant instructor in biology and chemistry while working on a master’s degree. This was interrupted in 1955-56 by a National Science Fellowship award to Cornell University in the biochemistry department and also in 1959-60 as a National Science Foundation Faculty Fellow in anatomy at the Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, N.Y.

In 1957-59 she became an instructor of biology at Russell Sage College, and in 1960 chairman of the Biology Department at Russell Sage Junior College in Albany, New York.

In 1961 she enrolled in the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1965 with the M.D. degree. She became an intern at Cooper Hospital and in 1966, entered as a resident in the Ophthalmology Department of the Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania. After completing the residency in 1969, she began her private practice in ophthalmology and continued until retirement in 2006.

In 1980 she was the sole recipient of the Outstanding Alumna Award from the College of St. Rose. In 1988, as part of a group of eight volunteer ophthalmologists and several opticians, nurses and technicians, she went to Aguascalientes, Mexico, for four weeks with the medical group missions of the Christian Medical Society.

She became a Eucharistic Minister in 1971, serving weekly in the hospital and on assignment on Sundays in the Eucharistic program of St. Joan of Arc Church. She began varied volunteer duties at the Catholic Homes of St. Mary’s in 1992. Elected president of St. Mary’s Auxiliary in 2005, she served until May 2010. With a former high school classmate, Sister Elvira DiCerbo, M.F.P. also from Schenectady, N.Y., the Cenacle of the Marian Movement Priests began in 1984.

The Laurel Springs Lions Club presented Dr. Michon with the President’s Award for outstanding work over many years with sight screening at the Laurel Springs, Parkview and Magnolia public schools. She also participated in the eye screening for the children of Our Lady of Grace School, Somerdale.

Josephine M. Heisler (Maiden name: Greco) graduated from Pennsauken High School in 1979 and married James Heisler, Jr. in 1983. They have resided in Maple Shade since 1984 and they have three children. They are members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish.

She began taking classes to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse after the birth of their third child and went on to receive her Associates in Science and Nursing Diploma from Camden County College and Our Lady of Lourdes School of Nursing, graduating with honors and as class president in 1998. She worked at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in the cardiac surgery post-operative recovery unit every weekend while in school. Since the completion of her degree, she has worked in the Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center Emergency Department. She is currently in the process of obtaining her BSN through Immaculata University.

She often has been called upon to pray with a patient and to offer support and hope for the patient’s family. She readily shares rosary cards or prayer cards with those in need. She takes no personal credit for the love and compassion that she extends to patients, whether Catholic or not, but instead sees it as a natural response to answering the call of Jesus to live her baptismal promises in her vocation as a nurse.

Heisler has served over the last four years in her work and volunteer services with last year’s St. Luke Award recipients, Vincent and Peggy McDermott, at the Bergen Lanning Clinic, Community Health Practice.

Joanne R. Thomas graduated from Rutgers-Camden School of Law in 1983. Her connection with Options for Women Pregnancy Center began in March 1995 when she was invited to join its board of directors.

After serving 10 years on the board of directors, Thomas put aside her law practice to become the full time executive director of the ministry.

Under the direction of Thomas, Options for Women became a medical model pregnancy center, offering free ultrasound examination, pregnancy and STD testing and treatment, access to an RN throughout the pregnancy and physical examinations by a GYN nurse practitioner. In the past year, Options has formed a cooperative partnership with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services in a program focused on pregnancy and disease prevention through lifestyle change.

Options’ ministry exists to provide a safe haven where women can seek objective counsel. Well over 20,000 clients have come through the doors of Options for Women, and over 1,200 babies have been born to registered clients since its inception in 1985. Over 86 percent of Options clients who are “abortion vulnerable” choose to carry their babies to term.

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