The Heart of Nuba with Dr. Tom Catena
Tuesday, April 28, 2020 @ 7:00PM
The inspiring, touching documentary, The Heart of Nuba, premiered during our Justice Film Festival. It returns to The Sheen Center along with its subject, the remarkable Dr. Tom Catena, who has spent much of his career caring for one million people in the strife-ridden mountains of southern Sudan. The audience will hear him talk about his motivation to leave everything behind to live with and heal the people of the Nuba Mountains who are desperately in need. Dr. Tom has received as much as he has given, embodying the Gospel message that by losing your life, you find it.
The Heart of Nuba tells the story of one doctor, one hospital, and one million patients. In the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan, American Catholic doctor Tom Catena selflessly and courageously serves the needs of a forgotten people as the region is bombed relentlessly by an indicted war criminal, Omar Al-Bashir. Two things remain constant: Dr. Tom’s faith and his enduring love for the Nuba people.
Dr. Thomas Catena was born in Amsterdam, New York, and grew up in a large Catholic-Italian family. After playing college football and being named an All American, he graduated from Brown University with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1986. After graduation, he felt called to mission work and saw that there would be more opportunities if he pursued medicine. After graduating from Duke University with a medical degree through a U.S. Navy scholarship, he became a Navy flight surgeon. He went on his first medical mission to Kenya during medical school and continued to do missions throughout his residency in family medicine in Terre Haute, Indiana.
After finishing his residency, Dr. Tom worked missions with the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), was a missionary doctor at Our Lady of Lourdes Mutomo Hospital in Kenya, and a consultant for St. Mary’s Mission Hospital in Nairobi.
In 2007, Dr. Tom, the name given him by the locals, volunteered with CMMB to help the Catholic Diocese of El Obeid launch the Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. Because of civil unrest dating to 2001, Dr. Tom is the only real physician for the population of 750,000 people. Patients often walk for hours, or days at a time, to see Dr. Tom, and at any time, the in-patient number can range from 300 to 450. Dr. Tom and his team of nurses, whom he trains, tackle symptoms and conditions from fractures, diarrhea, cancer, malnourishment, surgeries, and effects of the war.
The government in Sudan prohibits humanitarian aid so Dr. Tom must find ways to work around it; many volunteers are forbidden to travel to the area and Dr. Tom is the only practicing physician. He estimates he performs more than 1,000 operations per year.
Dr. Tom is on-call 2
4/7. Through all the struggles, he turns to his Catholic faith for his work: his inspiration is St. Francis of Assisi. “His whole concept was to emulate Christ through the Gospels and to live it in a radical way,” Dr. Tom said of St. Francis, whose footsteps he is following.
Since 2016, Dr. Tom has received the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity; the Catholics in Media Associates (CIMA) Social Justice Award, and the Cinema for Peace Most Valuable Documentary Film for The Heart of Nuba. In May 2016, Dr. Tom married his wife, Nasima, a nurse.