Priest, Physician and Social Advocate: the Rev. Jack MacCarthy, O.Praem.

My name is Jack MacCarthy. I’m a priest, a doctor and a member of St. Norbert Abbey. I work on the Napo River in Peru in a small hospital, a rural hospital, of 30
beds in the town of Santa Clotilde and our hospital is called Centro de salud de Santa Clotilde. We serve a hundred villages, almost all
of them indigenous native villages. We have 13 outlying clinics, 14
institutions in all, but 13 outlying clinics each one of which has primary contact
with between seven and 11 villages. We have a total of 85 or 88 people working for us now: 35 in the central hospital and the rest out on the river. We had a little over a thousand hospitalized patients last year, about
16,000 clinic visits in our hospital — 36,000
counting all the outlying clinics. The travel times make it very difficult. The farthest outlying village we have is six days away in a canoe. In our speedboat that we use as an ambulance we can get there in 10 hours, but it’s a big deal — it’s 120 gallons of
gas and usually we tell people from that village if they have a child with severe burns,
“Start down the river in whatever boat you can get and we’ll meet you on the way.” There are a lot of levels of real personal satisfaction, too. One night, maybe ten years ago, Maurice was upriver or downriver with a
vaccine team. I was there alone and we had an emergency
C-section to do, and we did it and it turned out fine, and finishing that operation, I looked
around the room and I thought, “I’m the only high school graduate in
this room,” and they were local people who we trained and who could function well, monitor
a patient, I put a spinal anesthetic in, but I had confidence in the nurse’s aide that was… and the satisfaction that brings,
that’s something worth working for and those people we’re all
proud of being able to do that and still are, so I think that’s one of the things. I can only answer this anecdotally. When I was first there, one of the first years, the nuns have a big internado: there are 88 girls and 55 boys in an Iroquois longhouse, they eat together, but one of the girls had a bad cough, it was persistent and she turned out to be TB positive, so
we went through all of the girls, they sleep in one big dormitory, and we put several other girls on treatment. All of them improved well. That girl grew up, went back to her village, married, came in, and now I’ve delivered all of her babies and now, recently, just one of the midwives delivered the
baby — her first grandchild. Well, that’s fun. A whole generation. That’s a part of the… If you make a
long-term commitment you find that you’re reaping benefits that you didn’t think about before, but they
really are. I walk across a schoolyard now and I know all of the kids. That’s fun. My older brother, who was an ophthalmologist, had been at an ophthalmology clinic… a conference at the Bascom Eye Center at the University
of Miami. There was a fellow there who knew about a hospital in the Caribbean,
on St. Lucia, that was looking for an internist and a
medical director. So he told me that in Peru, I was in Lima then, and I was able to make a telephone call from
Lima to St. Lucia talked with the nun was the
director of the hospital and I said, “Yeah, I’ll go.” I had never been there, didn’t know where it was even, but that’s how I got there. I stayed there for three years and they were very good years because I worked with a
good pediatrician, a good anesthesiologist, and an excellent surgeon and I was his surgical assistant on all complicated cases, when he needed extra hands and I just learned a whole lot there
that has helped me start from scratch in the small clinic on the Napo River. Now Chuck came down oh… six or eight months later. He came with
his wife and they had a small singing group, which
still works together at the 5:30 Mass in their parish on Saturday’s up in Wausau. And they put on workshops, liturgical music workshops, in various towns and small parishes around St. Lucia. And the next time he came, he brought a couple of physicians with him and it has just grown. Now they’re building
houses for blind people, and they’re building an extra wing on a a girl’s reform school, and they’re doing a lot of things. He’s been there thirty
years he’s gone now, he and Peg, his wife, and as you know a lot of St. Norbert College students. Well, he’s my big brother and so I’ve
always looked up to him and I don’t have any
reason to stop looking up to him. He’s had a tremendous leadership role in medicine in Wausau, and community service in Wausau, he and his
wife, Peg, have been active the whole time they’ve lived there, from the time he finished his residency at Mayo. For 10 or 12 years he was the elected president of his group of of opthamologists there that serve the
whole of that northeastern Wisconsin upper from Wausau, to Minoqua, to Rhinelander. And he’s always enjoyed going to St. Lucia and enjoyed being able to know people in another culture and, the same thing, following long-term. When you run a marathon, there’s people all along the way encouraging you and offering you a water bottle and cheering and that’s what helps you run. That’s been the case with me. There’s always been encouragement from
my family, from friends, from the abbey. I surely cannot claim personal
credit for any of those awards, it’s only that I’m guy that gets them, but in truth it belongs to a big group of people. The whole theory of mission is sending from one church people to work with a
different church and the senders and the receivers are important on both sides.

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