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Doctor, deacon, dad: Scott Ross serves at free Manassas clinic

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deacon 50th anniversary

This is part of a series of articles throughout the year celebrating the 50th anniversary of the reinstitution of the permanent diaconate in the United States.

When Scott Ross was growing up in Dunbar, Pa., he was eager to serve at the altar. Age restrictions didn’t deter him from asking the priest. “You need to wait,” the priest would tell him, again and again. “You need to wait.”

Once he was old enough, Ross became an altar server, and kept at it all the way through high school. Good things came with patience, hard work and in God’s time — a theme that would follow him throughout life, as both a medical doctor and a deacon. 

Ross graduated from Georgetown University with a biology degree and a philosophy minor, and earned his medical degree there in 1994. He met his wife, Kellie, a nursing graduate, when they worked in the same unit at the hospital. 

Ross “fell away” from the church during his college years, infrequently attending Mass — but marriage brought him back “full-throttle.” 

“When my wife and I decided that we were going to get married and hopefully someday have a family, that’s when we really said, ‘You know, we need something bigger than us to help us,’ ” he said. 

The Rosses had two children, Jake and Sam, and started to “put down roots” at All Saints Church in Manassas. They had been parishioners for three years when in 2001, planning began for a new parish, Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville. They were part of the project from day one. 

“We took a leap of faith and kept deepening our faith in our desire to serve,” Ross said. 

Bishop Paul S. Loverde reopened the permanent diaconate program in the Diocese of Arlington in 2005, after a 20-year suspension. Ross spent a lot of time thinking about the diaconate in prayer, often during Eucharistic adoration. He talked to Kellie, who was finding her own new way to serve as co-founder of the nonprofit House of Mercy in Manassas. She was supportive, so he applied to the program.

He wasn’t accepted. “It was a painful experience,” Ross said. “It was a thought-provoking experience.”

Still, he kept getting “nudges” toward the diaconate, he said. A main source of inspiration was Deacon Jake Henry, a permanent deacon at Holy Trinity, who kept urging him to reapply. With some apprehension, in 2009, Ross decided to take the leap. 

“I think that I grew in maturity of faith at that time,” he recalled. “(I) said, ‘if it was meant to be, it will happen.’ I was more open to accepting the results one way or the other.”

The time was right. In 2014, Ross was ordained a permanent deacon and assigned to his parish, Holy Trinity.

In 2015, Art Bennett, CEO of Catholic Charities and a fellow parishioner. approached Ross with big news: a group of local Catholics was purchasing a former abortion clinic in Manassas. What’s more, the group — the BVM Foundation — wanted to transform the space into a free medical clinic for the poor. Bennett wanted to know if Ross would consider serving as the volunteer medical director. 

“I told him to give me overnight to think about it and pray about it,” Ross said, “but I kind of knew what the answer was instantly.”

For the next two years, volunteers worked to set up the clinic. Last December, the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic opened its doors, under the umbrella of diocesan Catholic Charities. Ross sometimes thinks about the first time he walked through the doors.

“There was still equipment from the abortion clinic and it was eerie. Even though I knew it had been blessed, it was just very eerie,” he said. “I don’t get that sense now. “

“We’ve established that it’s a place for good, a place for love and not a place for death and pain and suffering. Yeah, there’s pain and suffering in medicine, people are ill, but they know it’s a place for life now and a place for love. It is beautiful to know that with God’s help we have made all things new,” Ross said. “There has been a transformation here.”

He feels that his ministry as a deacon and as a doctor go “hand in hand” at the clinic. “The diaconate allows me to help people with spiritual issues,” he said. “My medical profession helps me to help people with their physical needs and issues. I think here at the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic, they’re really brought together in service."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018