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Surgeon Trades Scalpel For Priestís Collar

Surgeon Trades Scalpel For Priestís CollarAftermore than two decades helping people heal physically, a TuftsSchool of Medicine graduate joined the priesthood to help themspiritually.Boston

Boston [02.04.05] With nearly two dozen years as a doctor under his belt,few would believe that Dr. Nicholas Sannella would want a careerchange. But Sannella, a graduate of the Tufts School of Medicine,decided to trade his scrubs for a collar last year, becoming apriest for a parish in Lowell.

“Asphysicians, we’re also scientists,” he told the LowellSun. “But we’re clearly involved in the mysteryof a life. As a surgeon, I think you’ve got to know there’sa God.”

Even whileworking as one of the region’s top vascular surgeons atSaints Memorial Medical Center in Lowell, Sannella always seemedto have God on his mind.

“Youknow, he was a very, very good vascular surgeon,” Paul BurkeJr., a 15-year colleague of Sannella’s, told the Sun.“And as he got into his 50s, he was still active in thechurch. He’d hire buses to take nuns to Celtics games andPops concerts.”

Despite thestress of a doctor’s life, Sannella remained active andcommitted to his career as a surgeon. He even used his law degree,which he received from Suffolk University in 1983 after threeand a half years of night classes, to better understand wherelegal and medical issues intersected.

“Thework was never a burden,” he told the newspaper, explainingthat he would go to bed and hope to get a phone call waking himup to go perform an operation.

Even thoughit never got tedious, something else seemed to be calling Sannella.The little things seemed to point him in a different direction.

First, a fellowsurgeon mentioned that she knew a doctor studying for the priesthood.Then, the Tufts graduate saw an obituary that struck a chord withhim.

“Itwas a man who’d lost his wife,” Sannella told theSun. “His kids were grown and he entered the priesthood.He served for 20 years in a parish, then died.”

A few weekslater, Sannella’s partner Burke mentioned the story.

“Andas soon as he said it, I knew exactly what he was talking about,”said Sannella, who had never married. “It was like he’dread my mind. He said, ‘Maybe you should do that.’”

So in August1999, Sannella entered a Merrimack Valley seminary. Four yearslater, Sannella was ordained and became associate pastor at MostBlessed Sacrament Church in Wakefield. At the beginning of thisyear, Sannella received a six-year appointment at Immaculate ConceptionParish in Lowell.

Now Sannellais turning his attention to the responsibilities at his new parish.

“Myjob is to bring people together and make sure the parish is spirituallyand fiscally sound and healthy,” he says. “There’sa real commitment by the bishop and archbishop to keeping thisparish open. It’s just a magnificent church. There’sa lot of faith here.”

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