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The proposed Saint Padre Pio Institute for the Relief of Suffering School of Osteopathic Medicine at Benedictine College was featured on EWTN in January.
The college always makes an impression at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., because the school has brought the largest number of students from the furthest away to the March for decades.
But Benedictine College was featured in EWTN’s coverage of the March this year because of a historic agreement that President Stephen D. Minnis signed that would bring an independent medical school to the college’s Atchison, Kansas, campus.
“It was exciting to see the proposed new medical school at Benedictine College featured on EWTN,” said Minnis. “There is a lot of momentum and excitement about this medical school.”
Longtime Catholic journalist Teresa Tomeo reported from near the main stage at the March and interviewed Dr. George Mychaskiw, a board-certified pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist, and Jere Palazzolo. The two are leading efforts to bring the proposed school to campus.
Mychaskiw, who has previously launched four successful medical schools, told Tomeo, “We’ve got an affiliation agreement with Benedictine College. We’re working on developing the school. We’re out there fundraising, praying and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
He summed up that “It’s time for physicians to take back the culture, to bring us a culture of life and not a culture of death.”
Palazzolo is leading efforts to bring Padre Pio’s hospital charism to the United States. He said plans were “really going great” and “moving forward.”
“We have a collaboration as you know with Padre Pio’s Hospital over in Italy, and we’re bringing it to fruition up in the Diocese of Lansing,” he said.
However, having pro-life hospitals will be of little benefit if there are no pro-life doctors to staff them. Students in medical school who believe in the right to life have a tough time, said Palazzolo. “In medical school it’s still very difficult for people. There just is not really good strong Catholic formation of physicians. The healing ministry of Jesus Christ is the healing of the soul and the healing of the body,” he said, but “physicians have never gotten the Catholic formation, understanding the teachings of the Catholic Church on life issues, the bioethical issues and the medical theology, which is what we’re going to incorporate into our Medical School. Our physicians will come out to be the most well-formed Catholic physicians, to go into their communities and be the leaders in their communities and that’s so badly needed now.”
Mychaskiw said that medical schools hide from the truth of what they are doing. “They use euphemisms like ‘reproductive health care,’” he said. “They don’t say that this is a human life that they’re extinguishing. Human life is precious from the moment of conception until natural death, but someone has to lay that out to them and not use euphemisms — not use language to hide the truth.”
The difficulties are greater than ever.
Palazzolo said new pro-abortion legislation “makes it challenging but it makes it much more necessary. We need people fighting for the life issues, and doing things,” he said. “We’re trying to do things — really bring a model of Padre Pio’s Hospital over to the United States — the home for the relief of suffering — and also to form physicians and have a truly Catholic school. We want to do the things that will have a grassroots impact on communities. Satan is fighting hard, and he’s being very effective right now.”
Palazzolo said the school will have Padre Pio’s rich understanding of their medical work. Padre Pio — St. Pius of Pietrelcina — lived from 1887 to 1968 in Italy. He was a Capuchin friar renowned for his work as a confessor as well as his works of charity and care for the suffering. He is also well known as a stigmatist, having suffered the wounds of Christ in his body.
Padre Pio calls health care the “twice Jesus,” Palazzolo said. “Padre Pio would say to see the suffering and wretched Jesus in the patients,” and the doctors as well. “They’re the hands of Jesus. They really do make an impact and the mission of that to release love … the first ingredient to the relief of suffering.”
Palazzolo wants this charism to permeate institutions modeled after Padre Pio such that “physicians and the caretakers all the way down to the housekeepers and everybody understand. So that the whole experience is completely different and people they change people’s hearts not by proselytizing but just by example. That’s Padre Pio’s charism.”
“Our new strategic vision looks for ways Benedictine College can Transform Culture in America,” said Benedictine President Minnis. “There are few ways that would be more impactful than bringing this unique and life-affirming vision to the medical community.”