For decades the people of the Nuba Mountains have faced hardships – from a hostile government that attempted their genocide to living in an isolated region without access to basic human services. They continually express how thankful they are for Dr. Catena’s commitment to saving lives, and how they pray daily for his safety. Due to the way he heals the sick, he has often been called “Jesus Christ.”
He’s been recognized internationally for humanitarian service, but “Dr. Tom” is known in Gidel, Sudan as a local hero. “America has many doctors,” the locals say. “But Dr. Tom is ours. We need more people like Dr. Tom.”
Without Dr. Tom’s commitment to the underserved people of Nuba, countless lives would have been lost. Since 2007, Dr. Tom Catena, a Catholic missionary from Amsterdam, New York, has been the only doctor permanently based in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, serving a population of more than a million people.
Dr. Tom has endured times of war, bombings, tuberculosis, many bouts of malaria, around-the-clock shifts, and stayed behind when all other humanitarian organizations left. His dedication to providing medical care for those without is unwavering. As he puts it simply, “If I leave, people will die.”
Dr. Catena originally attended Brown University where he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering, but felt called to missionary work. He decided to pursue a medical career instead and attended Duke University School of Medicine on a U.S. Navy scholarship. After graduating, he completed his Navy commitment and later began missionary work in Africa.
Dr. Tom volunteered at St. Mary’s Hospital in Nairobi for six years before helping
establish Mother of Mercy Hospital in Sudan’s remote Nuba Mountains. “I asked, ‘where was the greatest need?” he said. The hospital is the only trauma center within a 300-mile radius, and represents a place of hope. Patients have been known to walk for many days to be treated here. One father pulled his son in a wagon for 150 miles to find help for his child. The hospital relies on Sudan Relief Fund for nearly all its medicine and supplies.
Dr. Tom treats up to 400 patients a day and remains on call 24/7. Giving up the comforts of the western world, he lives in a small hut adjacent to the hospital so he can respond to emergencies at night. Every year the hospital treats up to 75,000 patients and he performs 1,500 surgeries. Says Dr. Tom, “You stay strong for the next person who needs you.”