CHARLESTON — Camillian Father Scott Binet, M.D., celebrated Mass at St. James Church in Conway recently and spoke to parishioners about a relatively new disaster relief program called SOS Drs.
The full name is Servants of St. Camillus Disaster Relief Services. It was formed in 2008 as a task force of the Ministers of the Infirm religious order, which was founded by Saint Camillus de Lellis in Rome in 1590.
In its short time in existence, SOS Drs has responded to disasters all around the world, including Myanmar, Philippines, the Republic of Georgia, and Italy, said Father Binet, president.
The priest asked the St. James congregation for their support through prayers, volunteer service and financial assistance.
While in the state, Father Binet also visited Deacon Ed Peitler of Catholic Charities, who is an old friend, to discuss the medical mission in Guatemala and how his organization could help there.
SOS Drs, based in Milwaukee, Wis., offers three-pronged relief through medical services, pastoral care and humanitarian relief, the priest said. He noted that how much they do depends on where they are serving.
For example, people in Abruzzo, Italy, did not require medical attention after the deadly earthquake in April because they have established hospitals. But with almost 50,000 people still displaced and living in camps and hotels, Father Binet said they need continued psychological and spiritual formation.
On the flip side, the organization provided more services than usual in Myanmar because so few relief agencies were allowed into the country. The Camillian said they fulfilled their usual three missions plus rebuilt schools and homes.
Father Binet said his volunteers were only allowed to remain in the country for 10 days, so in that time they chose a local leader and taught the Burmese how to complete the repairs.
In other areas, the priest and physician said they will set up fixed and mobile medical clinics in association with a local diocese. SOS Drs will also make arrangements for surgeries.
The priest noted that many secular organizations provide the same type of services, but he wanted the Catholic Church to have a presence in these areas of need.
To that end, he said they are creating a stable base for the group in Kibera, which is the largest slum in Africa, where almost 1 million people are crammed into 600 acres of mud and filth.
“It’s a really terrible place,” Father Binet said. “It’s what we call a man-made disaster.”
Here, SOS Drs has its hands full serving the sick and the poor. The Camillian said they also hope to open the doors to faith formation.
Father Binet said his own formation came to a pinnacle during his final year of medical school, when he understood that he also had a vocation to the priesthood.
“The Lord was leading me to something greater than just being a physician,” he said.
The tough part was finding a diocese or religious order that would allow him to serve as a priest and a family physician.
He noted that it was a long and, at times, frustrating journey. But he put his faith in God and continued to pray for guidance.
His prayers were answered when he discovered the order of St. Camillus, whose fourth vow is to serve the sick even at the risk of their own lives, he said.
“I know I’m in the right place,” Father Binet said.
To learn more about SOS Drs visit www.sosdrs.org.