American Doctor Driven by Faith Spends 16 Years in Sudan Providing Health and Healing

A dedicated American doctor has spent nearly 25 years providing medical care in rural Sudan, driven by his strong faith and commitment to helping those in need.

doctor Tom Catena Sudan

When we surrender our lives to God, He will take us to unexpected places and enable us to do great things we never imagined possible. He walks by our side and helps us overcome any challenges in our paths.

Dr. Tom Catena, an Ivy League-educated doctor from Amsterdam, New York, found his calling in the mission field through his involvement with the evangelical Christian group Campus Crusade for Christ.

Initially pursuing engineering at Brown University, he realized his true vocation was in medicine. Despite the long and arduous journey, Catena graduated from Duke University School of Medicine on a scholarship from the U.S. Navy.

Catena’s plan was to spend a year in Kenya practicing mission medicine before returning to the U.S. However, one year turned into five, and now almost 25 years.

After seven years in Kenya, he moved to the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, where he has served for 16 years. His encounters with people familiar with Sudan’s challenges influenced his decision to work there, despite knowing little about the country and its civil war.

In Kenya, Catena met U.S. Army surgeon Dede Byrne, who connected him with a Catholic bishop building a hospital in Sudan. In 2008, Catena relocated to Sudan, married a nurse named Nasima, and adopted two sons.

Life in the Nuba Mountains is challenging, with no running water and basic living conditions. The journey to the hospital involves a week-long trek, including a dirt road segment that becomes impassable during the rainy season.

Mother of Mercy Hospital in Gidel, Sudan, is the only hospital serving over one million people in the area. Catena often sees hundreds of patients a day and is always on call. The hospital has limited medical equipment, relying on solar panels and a backup generator.

Despite these challenges, Catena’s faith keeps him going. “My faith is the only thing that has kept me here,” he said. “Without a doubt, I would have jumped ship a long time ago.”

When Catena arrived in 2008, there were only 15 people working at the hospital, including a couple of Catholic nuns and local staff with minimal education. Today, the hospital has 270 staff members, over 50 of whom are trained health workers. African Mission Healthcare, an organization supporting mission hospitals across Africa, assists with medicines, supplies, training, and infrastructure.

Catena’s faith is evident in his daily routine. “Since I’ve gotten here in 2008, we’ve had priests here. So every day we have Mass,” he said.

This opportunity to hear the word of God and receive the sacraments daily has been a crucial source of strength for him. Despite the hardships and dangers, Catena remains steadfast, knowing that God is in charge and is looking out for him and his family.

“I know no matter what happens here, God is here. God is in charge. God is looking after me.” Catena said.

Becoming a father has added new concerns for Catena, but his faith remains strong. “I still have a feeling God is looking out for us,” he said. Despite the challenges of war and poverty, Catena and his team have created something beautiful through their faith, commitment, and compassion.

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