A family from Goshen, New York has received the honor of being named the International Family of the Year by the Knights of Columbus. Dr. Mario Loomis, his wife Donna and their four children were chosen for their exemplary witness to their Catholic faith, ranging from mission work to producing a DVD on priestly vocations.
Dr. Mario Loomis’ initial impression of the Knights was that it was mostly an organization of older men whose children were already out of the house. As he told CNA, “my own exposure to the Knights was that my uncle was a Knight in Pennsylvania, but he was older so I never really considered it.” Instead, what he found was “a group of great young guys who are really Catholic and pro-life.”
A plastic surgeon, Dr. Loomis lends his skills to Light of the World Charities, a Catholic program that provides medical care to the poor and sick in third world countries. On their most recent trip, Mario and his wife Donna, a registered nurse, participated in a medical mission to Honduras to help repair people with cleft lip and palate and a few people with burns.
The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal made sure that the mission brought spiritual care to patients and medical personnel alike, Donna explained. After their full day of work, anyone who was interested could participate in a retreat led by the friars. Their work to alleviate the physical needs of the poor was “strengthened with the daily Eucharist,” she observed.
The poor people who received medical care were “tremendous” and “totally appreciative” for the care they received, Dr. Loomis related. The chance to receive medical attention required some of the poor to walk an entire day to come to the clinic, with the friars and local priests spreading out around the surrounding region to find those people who need care.
The setting for the mission also proved to be quite intimate. While most doctors would only be around their patients for the time required to perform their surgery, Dr. Loomis and his fellow surgeons stayed in the same house as the patients and the friars, served the patients their meals and prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament with and for them.
Perhaps the mission work of the Loomis’ would qualify the family for the Knights’ award in the minds of many, but Mario and Donna, are also the co-founders of a Catholic teen support program called "A Drop of Clear Water."
The initiative, which stresses commitment to prayer, chastity and charity, was inspired by a story from Mother Teresa. Donna recalls it as an encounter between a reporter and Mother Teresa. The reporter asked Mother, “What makes you think you can change the world?” to which Mother Teresa responded, "I never thought I could change the world, I only wanted to be a drop of clear water, through which God's love could shine." The foundress of the Missionaries of Charity then asked the reporter, “Are you Catholic?” “Yeah,” the writer responded, “well, join me and we’ll be two drops,” Mother said. “Are you married?” she asked. The reporter replied he was married, to which Bl. Teresa said, “invite her and we’ll be three drops.”
The Drop of Clear Water initiative originally started out within Donna’s homeschooling circles but has now expanded to include 60-65 teens, plus their parents.
The couple has four children: Joseph (18), Rebecca (15), Gabriel (7) and Teresa (5). Joseph is active in the Columbian Squire program and created a video for teens considering a religious vocation. The DVD, which took over a year to film, will be distributed to all of the parishes in the Archdiocese of New York.