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Fabio Stevenazzi, a diocesan priest in Italy, was a doctor before entering the seminary. Now he is donning his white coat once more to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Italy is facing a national crisis caused by a lack of hospital beds and health personnel. Now that the churches in Italy have been emptied by the Italian government’s emergency decrees in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stevenazzi, 48, has decided to return to medical practice in order to help those infected with COVID-19, according to a report by the website of the diocese of Milan.
As a member of the clergy, his action is an expression of the pastoral creativity necessary in these times. It’s also an embodiment of the church as a “field hospital,” a metaphor dear to Pope Francis.
The Italian priest, who ministers to the pastoral community of San Cristoforo di Gallarate, will now work at a hospital in Busto Arsizio, a city of 83,290 inhabitants in northern Italy. Busto Arsizio is the sixth most populous city in Lombardy, the Italian region that has suffered the worst outbreak in all of Europe.
When Fr. Stevenazzi heard the call of Pope Francis to be creative and to be closer than ever to God’s people in these difficult times, he expressed to his superiors his wish to help as a doctor. His colleagues at the hospital received him with open arms. He was recruited immediately, as foreseen in the official communiqué issued by the Lombardy Region to deal with the health emergency.
For 10 years, Fr. Fabio, as he is known to his faithful, worked as an internist in an emergency room in Legnano, another city in Lombardy, near Milan.
Even after his ordination, in 2014, he diligently attended the regular medical training required to keep his certification up to date. Since 2017 he has been working with an organization called “Cuamm – Doctors with Africa,” with which he worked in Ethiopia in the summer months of 2018 and in Tanzania in 2019.
To be ready to deal with patients suffering from COVID-19, he participated in specialized training, learning the procedures for biocontainment and how to protect himself and his colleagues.
Fr. Stevenazzi’s decision to return to the hospital will demand personal sacrifice. For as long as the patients need him, he will basically live as a hermit in his small apartment at the rectory, without being able to have contact with his brother priests. He will celebrate Mass alone, as many priests are doing these days. But through this hardship, the Eucharist will be his daily bread, strengthening him to face the present crisis and bring a smile to his patients.
For its part, the parish of St. Joseph in Busto Arsizio has also started an initiative to help the doctors and nurses of the hospital where Fr. Stevenazzi works. The pastor, Fr. Giuseppe Tedesco, has organized a service to bring sandwiches, fruit, and healthy food for the healthcare personnel of the infectious disease department, who normally don’t have time to rest or go for food due to the urgency of their work during this emergency.
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