Philippines: Dentist by Profession, Missionary by Vocation

Catalina Lucman, or Dentist Bambi as she is fondly called by her family and friends, is a dentist in the morning and a catechist in the evening. Keep smiling.

The dual work as a dentist and catechist has been an interesting factor for Dentist Bambi. Asked how and why, she explains: “Whenever patients visit my clinic in Cubao, Quezon City, apart from providing them an exemplary dental care, I treat them with cura personalis (personal care for the individual). I try my best to make them feel comfortable, relaxed, and situate them in an affectionate environment that goes beyond culture, diversity, religion, and with utmost community–based care,” she says.

She is a woman who tries to find God in all things. Her decades of experience as a dentist honed her to be more “patient–centred” and even go beyond. Her patients become her friends. She patiently listens to their concerns and life issues – all with empathy and solidarity. “It has been an innate dimension in me to be a listener from the beginning. I empathise with the varied stories of their lives – all walks of life, especially the least, the last, and even the lost,” she explains. Why does she do it? Her answer is, “One of the sincerest forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say or talk about. Listening is a magnetic creative force. It unfolds and expands better relationships. Usually, all they need is someone who will just sit down and listen to them, and this is exactly what I do!”

“I think it is innate in me that the values I learned from my parents, grandparents, and Catholic school upbringing manifest in my deeds as a compassionate and service–oriented dentist to my patients. In the process of being a listener to them, I may ignite insights to understand life in the light of one’s faith,” Bambi said. When asked to cite and illustrate it further, she was prompted enough to share a few cases with some details: “One of my cases was about abortion. A patient of mine who became a close friend, called me up in the wee hour of the night, crying, and feeling at lost about her ‘unwanted’ pregnancy. She was pressured by her family to abort the baby, since she was already in the United States for work. After listening to her, I explained to her the pros and cons of abortion.

What is permitted and what is not, challenging her to be a Pro–Life than Pro–Choice,” the dentist added. With Divine intervention, the lady decided not to abort the child. Bambi saved a life from a mother’s womb. At present, that child grew up as a scholar in a Catholic school and a loving child to her mother. Her patient-friend is continuously expressing her gratitude to Bambi’s timely intervention and enlightenment during those crucial times. Bambi experienced several cases of abortion stories. She says talking with people about abortion is a great challenge, explaining the value and sublime beauty of human life, seeking to counteract the torrent of lies and ideological manipulation that floods today’s society in support of a “throw-away” culture.

People who share about impeding abortions had made a difficult decision to request an abortion, thinking that it would be the right solution. After an honest and open conversation with Bambi, these patients and others have changed their minds about their context on abortion, and convinced their partners to go forward with the pregnancy, embracing God’s gift of life. In the end, the culture of life needs to go hand in hand with a culture of encounter, of welcoming, and of solidarity, in order to avoid falling into hypocrisy. All these are needed to be effective proponents of a culture of life. “This is my vocation as a Catholic,” she asserts.

Besides being a dentist, what enthuses Bambi is that she is a volunteer catechist in her own way in the evenings. For several years, she is a lector/commentator at the Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Cubao, Quezon City. “I love to be active in the local parish activities – be it in teaching catechism with children or animating young people and women about faith, religion, and pastoral programs,” she says.

She considers her dual work of being a doctor and catechist to be a person for others. “That is why I felt that with so many enlightening experiences, I was able to realise that everyone has a purpose in life and a unique talent to love others. I personally experience the uncontainable happiness with what I am doing. I felt God’s presence and I rejoice! Faith is the initial component in a life devoted to service. Without it, nothing is viable. With faith, everything goes beyond the bounds of possibilities,” she explains.

“Having a persevering faith and a devoted service for others bring out the beauty of being a Catholic. It is faith in action,” she justifies. Being a dentist in the morning and a catechist in the evening make her life fulfilling. Just like what Pope Francis said, “Love and charity are service, helping others, serving others. There are many people who spend their lives in this way, in the service of others… When you forget yourself and think of others, this is LOVE! And with the washing of the feet, the Lord teaches us to be servants, and above all, servants as He was a servant to us, for every one of us.”

As a dentist, she believes that a smile gives everyone an efficacious expression that makes people feel comfortable around you. “I love the acronym of SMILE (See Miracles In Life Every day). Keep smiling,” she quipped.  (Santosh Digal)

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