Local doctor hopes 'Gold Mass' brings together Catholic scientists, engineers

Dr. John H. Hannigan, Ph.D., of Wayne State University’s School of Medicine and Department of Obstetrics and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Psychology, has lead efforts to organize a "Gold Mass" for scientists and engineers at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit on Nov. 15 as an effort to connect Catholics with other Catholics in the scientific community (Photo by Dan Meloy | Detroit Catholic)

Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament to host first Mass for scientific community on feast of St. Albertus Magnus, Nov. 15

DETROIT — There’s a Red Mass for lawyers and civil servants, a Blue Mass for first responders, a White Mass for health care professionals and a Rose Mass for those who are sick.

Now in Detroit, there is a Mass for scientists and engineers, providing a “golden opportunity” to give thanks to the Lord for the scientific progress that has propelled humanity to great accomplishments and the engineering prowess that continues to drive Detroit forward.

The Archdiocese of Detroit will host its first Gold Mass — gold is the color of the regalia robes for the scientific fields at academic graduations — for scientists and engineers at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the feast of St. Albertus Magnus, the patron saint of scientists.

“The Gold Mass is an opportunity for worship of the Creator of the whole universe,” Dr. John H. Hannigan, of Wayne State University’s School of Medicine and Department of Obstetrics, told Detroit Catholic. “The Gold Mass is an opportunity for fellowship among Catholic scientists and engineers.”

The Gold Mass is the brainchild of the Society of Catholic Scientists, an organization of more than 18,000 members across 50 countries, with most of its members in the United States, including Dr. Hannigan, who hopes the Mass could be a launching pad for a future Detroit chapter.

The Mass will allow for scientists who share the faith to be around other scientists and discuss the relationship between their careers and their church. Fr. J.J. Mech, rector of the cathedral, will celebrate the Mass.

“Wayne State is a secular organization, an arm of the government in a sense, and it’s an environment that is not conducive to promoting these types of conversations,” Dr. Hannigan said. “However, with academic freedom, each professor has an opportunity to shape his or her teaching and courses as appropriate to his or her understanding of the truth. One of the motivations for me to promote this (is that) the Society of Catholic Scientists is interested in encouraging students in the sciences, to provide them some models of well-integrated lives of science and faith.”

Dr. Hannigan reached out to the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Department of Communications to promote the Mass, and to Detroit Catholic Campus Ministry and the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Office of Catholic Schools to invite students to attend.

Dr. Hannigan also is appearing on local shows such as Vanessa Denha Garmo’s “Epiphany” and the Teresa Tomeo's "Catholic Connection" on Ave Maria Radio (990-AM), drumming up interest in the scientific and engineering community.

“When I sent a letter to the archbishop proposing this a few months ago, several of my colleagues who are in academic medicine or medical science research or professional engineers, signed on with me," Dr. Hannigan said. "That was encouraging as well, as we have this grassroots support.”

Dr. Hannigan hopes the Mass and social hour afterward will be a building block for a Catholic scientist community in Detroit. He said he is often surprised when he runs into a colleague who is also Catholic, because discussing religion in scientific circles isn’t always welcomed.

“This is one of the things the archbishop has written about very acutely in Unleash the Gospel,” Dr. Hannigan said. “If we are going to change the culture, it’s up to us, who are living vocations out in the world, to be the witnesses. There is nothing that prevents a scientist or engineer from being a living witness to Jesus Christ as long as we recognize our baptismal obligation. We shouldn’t be hiding the fact we believe Jesus Christ is Lord of the universe.”

Beyond a chance to get together and pray with fellow Catholic scientists, Dr. Hannigan said the Mass is a statement to the greater community that science and faith belong together, and in many ways, build on each other.

“Sometimes, we run into discussion that can be antagonistic to faith of any kind, which is unfortunate in the world of science and engineering," Dr. Hannigan said. "It’s unfortunate people don’t remember how important the Catholic Church was in the development of modern science.

“But the biggest benefit (to the Gold Mass) is recognizing we’re not alone," he continued. "We’re working in an environment that might not be paying attention, but we’re building a fellowship where we can support each other.”


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