836) Doctor Tom

Dr. Tom making the rounds.


By Eric Metaxas, July 23, 2025 blog at:  www.breakpoint.org  (adapted)

     Jesus said that Christians have the opportunity to glorify God by their deeds in full view of a watching world:  “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

     In the case of Dr. Tom Catena, a 51-year-old Catholic missionary from Amsterdam, New York, some unlikely people are watching, and they are indeed glorifying our heavenly Father.

     You see, “Dr. Tom” is the only physician stationed permanently at the Mother of Mercy hospital in the war-torn Nuba Mountains.   The New York Times calls it the site of “the worst ethnic cleansing you’ve never heard of.”  The remote region of half a million people is a frequent bombing target of Sudan’s Islamist government, which is trying to crush a rebellion by Christians and animists in the nation’s far-south.

     At last count, the hospital has been bombed 11 times.  When he isn’t dodging Sudanese bombs or mosquitoes carrying malaria, Dr. Tom removes shrapnel from women’s flesh, amputates arms and legs of wounded children, removes appendixes, and even delivers babies— all for $350 a month.

     One of those observing Dr. Tom’s Christ-like service in this forgotten land is a Muslim named Hussein Nalukuri Cupp, who stated simply, “He’s Jesus Christ.”  A rebel commander, meanwhile, says, “People in the Nuba Mountains will never forget his name.  People are praying that he never dies.”

     Even more amazing is the response of a serious liberal journalist who realizes that the world needs Christians, and he isn’t afraid to say it.  That journalist is Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who is helping the world to see the huge sacrifices that evangelicals and Catholics make around the world, doing God’s work quietly and humbly.

     “There are many secular aid workers doing heroic work,” Kristof says.  “But the people I’ve encountered over the years in the most impossible places— like Nuba, where anyone reasonable has fled— are disproportionately unreasonable because of their faith.

     Indeed.  Here’s what Dr. Tom says about his work: “For me, it’s a privilege to be in a position where I can offer my services to people.  I don’t see it as a hardship.  I’ve been given a lot in this life.  Let me go and try to do something with it.”  As Jesus also said to His children, ‘for those to whom much has been given, much will be expected.’


More on Dr. Tom Catena:

     Catena studied mechanical engineering at Brown University, and excelled both in the classroom and on the football field.  He earned honors as an Associated Press All-American and All-Ivy nose guard, and was also a Rhodes Scholar candidate.

     Upon graduation, he decided to pursue a medical career that would afford him the opportunity to work in the developing world.  Tom entered the Duke University School of Medicine in 1988 on a U.S. Navy scholarship, and, in 1992, he joined the United States Navy, becoming a Naval Flight Surgeon.  After fulfilling his Navy obligation, he completed a residency in family medicine at Union Hospital in Terre Haute, Indiana.  While there, he did mission trips to Guyana and Honduras.

     In 1999, Tom began his service as a missionary doctor.  Through the Catholic Medical Mission Board he worked as a physician volunteer at hospitals in Mutomo and Nairobi, Kenya.

     In 2007, Tom became medical director and sole physician at Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountain region of the Sudan, a country where civil war has been raging for years.  He established the facility with Bishop Macram Gassis and on opening day in 2008, he attended to over 200 patients.  Since then, he has rarely stopped, dealing with everything from malaria and leprosy to brain surgery.  When he isn’t seeing patients, he is busy running the hospital and training nurses.

     In 2011, the civil war escalated and conditions at the hospital became more intense.  In addition to those wounded by the fighting, many of them children, Tom and his staff faced a particularly severe malaria outbreak.  He was given the choice to evacuate, but he refused:  “As the only doctor in the only hospital in the region I could not leave in good conscience.”

     Catena was named a “Catholic Hero” by Catholic Digest in 2010.



See also:

‘He’s Jesus Christ’
Nicholas Kristof | New York Times | June 27, 2015

‘The Worst Atrocity You’ve Never Heard Of’
Adam Ellick and Nicholas Kristof | New York Times, video | July 13, 2015


Matthew 5:16  —  (Jesus said), “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Luke 12:48b  —  (Jesus said), “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

John 3:30  —  (John the Baptist speaking of Jesus), “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Matthew 25:40  —  (Jesus said), “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”


Thou art never weary, O Lord, of doing us good. 

Let us never be weary of doing Thee service.  Amen.

–John Wesley  (1703-1791)