Dallas, Texas, Oct 15, 2014 / 16:10 pm
Catholics in Texas are praying for the two nurses infected with Ebola, one of whom is a devout Catholic in communication with a priest.
“It is with profound sadness that we learn of the two Dallas healthcare workers being treated for the Ebola virus after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson,” Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas said Oct. 15. “We pray not only for their recovery, but also for their families and loved ones.”
Pham, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, contracted the disease while caring for Thomas, an Ebola patient from Liberia who died Oct. 8. Vinson, another nurse who cared for Duncan, admitted herself to the same hospital on Oct. 14 reporting symptoms of the disease.
“This situation reminds of the countless hours of selfless service that nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals and institutions provide in protecting us and our community,” Bishop Farrell said. “This is a time for our community to respond with calmness and compassion.”
Pham, reported to be a devout Catholic, is being kept in isolation and communicates with her family through Skype and phone calls from the Dallas hospital.
She has also been speaking with a priest, Diocese of Dallas communications director Annette Gonzalez Taylor told CNA Oct. 15.
“He’s not allowed in the quarantine area, but he is communicating with her,” she said, adding, “the power of prayer has no physical boundaries.”
Father Jim Khoi, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Fort Worth, where Pham’s family attends Mass, has been holding daily prayer services for her.
The priest, citing conversations with Pham’s mother, told the Dallas Morning News that Pham is “very comfortable” and “very supported now.”
“She knows that everybody knew to pray for her especially in this difficult time.”
On Tuesday Pham issued a statement through Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, saying, “I'm doing well and want to thank everyone for their kind wishes and prayers.”
“I am blessed by the support of family and friends and am blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world.”
Pham has received a blood transfusion from Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly in hopes the blood contains antibodies that can help combat the virus.
Fort Worth’s Nolan Catholic High School, where Pham graduated in 2006, will be holding a private prayer service for Pham on Oct. 16.
Her case has raised some concerns about the disease and its transmission at Mass and in other venues.
Taylor said that the Dallas diocese has told priests and liturgists to follow the U.S. bishops’ protocols for influenza season, but she added that this action was not only in response to Ebola.
“It was sent out just as much to address the onset of flu season and the presence of the enterovirus (D68), which is very contagious, and is now in Dallas and around the country.”
“People with symptoms should not come to Mass, if you are symptomatic,” Taylor said. “It’s not a sin to miss Mass if you are sick,” she explained.
She also noted that individual Catholics have the responsibility to decide whether to receive the Precious Blood from the chalice during communion.
Bishop Farrell praised Dallas officials for their response to the Ebola infections. He voiced confidence that officials “will take the necessary steps to care for the sick and protect the community.”
Pat Svacina, communications director of the neighboring Diocese of Fort Worth, said the diocese has health care professionals on staff who are monitoring the latest CDC guidelines on the disease and distributing the information to officials such as school nurses and pastors. This was being done prior to news that Pham had been infected, he said, noting that Pham was not in the Fort Worth area when she became contagious.
“The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth and its parishioners pray for the nurse that has been affected with Ebola and for her family, associates and all those affected by Ebola,” Svacina told CNA Oct. 14. “We ask that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, be with them in their time of need.”
“Bishop Michael Olson has asked our Catholics to pray for Nina and her family. The Diocese likewise is praying for all Ebola patients,” he said.
More than 4,400 people have died in the latest outbreak, primarily in West Africa. Although World Health Organization officials fear there could be thousands of new infections in future months without an effective response, the rate of new infections has appeared to slow down, the BBC reports.