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Saint of the Day: St. Ignatius of Laconi
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What Happened when Our Lady of Guadalupe Spoke to Another Reluctant Man Named John

Susan E. Wills - published on 12/12/14

I knew I had to do that, too, and so my wife and I started Tepeyac Family Center in 1994, in the basement of our home, after raising $64,000 in grants and loans. Tepeyac means “she who crushes the serpent’s head” and it reminds me daily of why I’m here and what I’m supposed to be doing. 

SW:  How is Tepeyac Family Center unique? How are you living out the invitation from Our Lady to follow the Gospel of Life and serve the poor?

JB:  Well, as our Mission Statement explains, our goal is to provide excellent medical care that respects the consciences of both patients and providers, that serves the poor and upholds the intrinsic value and dignity of every life at every stage.

We also may be unique in taking the time to educate patients about their well-being and to explain life-affirming reproductive health practices that lead to healthy individuals, families and communities. In other words, we don’t push patients out of the exam room after 6 minutes.

We currently have five full-time doctors on staff, as well as a Physician’s Assistant and, of course, dedicated nurses. In 2013, we saw close to 4,000 unique patients in over 15,000 appointments. Tepeyac doctors delivered 648 babies, and 267 of these babies (almost 42 percent) were delivered to poor, underserved and uninsured mothers who were able to receive excellent medical care because of donations to Divine Mercy Care (DMC), Tepeyac’s nonprofit parent company, and to the Moms and Babies Good Start Fund.

We offer classes in natural family planning and had over 100 couples enroll in just the first two years since the program started.

Tepeyac’s perinatal hospice program serves between 10 and 30 families a year, supporting and assisting them in honoring their child’s life until the moment God calls their baby home, whether before or soon after birth.

SW:How did Divine Mercy Care come about?

JB:  Catholic healthcare has been struggling for years. The pressure of trying to treat the poor and provide excellent care is incredible because Medicaid doesn’t pay the full cost of seeing patients and certainly doesn’t pay for any overhead. In order to increase the number of poor and uninsured patients we were caring for without going broke, we had to come up with a new, nonprofit model of healthcare and finally did in 2004.

All but three dioceses in the U.S. have Catholic hospitals that often support a group of practitioners who are trying to practice medicine in line with their Catholic faith. The Diocese of Arlington is one of the three that doesn’t have a Catholic hospital. We do have Bishop Loverde, however, and he supported us in building bridges between churches that wanted to live out their pro-life Catholic faith in the community. They donate to DMC and we, in turn, see the needy of their parishes. Arlington’s Catholic Charities and Gabriel Project (its pregnancy resource office) contribute annually and also refer uninsured women to us. Other pro-life Christian churches in the area do as well. Now, 20-40 percent of our patients in any month are “no pay,” self pay on a sliding scale, Medicaid or Medicare patients.

One of the missions of Divine Mercy Care and Tepeyac Family Center is to be a model for others of nonprofit healthcare that can serve the poor. Last year, six healthcare students, including medical residents, nurses and physician assistants, completed their clinical rotations through Tepeyac Family Center, LLC. In the past 12 years, we’ve hosted over 100 students so they can learn how excellent medicine can be done in a nonprofit setting. We hope to inspire the next generation of doctors to see that practicing excellent medicine doesn’t mean you have to leave your conscience at the door and that there’s a way to offer excellent medical care to the poor. In 2011 and 2012, under the sponsorship of Students for Life, I was able to speak to medical students at over 50 U.S. med schools. 

But if all that sets us apart is providing NFP instead of contraception and improving fertility through NaPro Tech rather than creating babies in labs, we’re not doing enough.

We’re the innkeepers in Bethlehem. We have this opportunity to see the face of Jesus in the sick, the poor and the newborn. They are the triple face of Christ.

Susan Wills
is a senior writer for Aleteia’s English language edition.

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Devotions and FeastsMiraclesOur Lady of Guadalupe
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