St. Apollonia may not be as well known as some other Catholic saints, but the good works being done in her name by Catholic dentists in Buffalo will receive more attention thanks to a grant awarded to the Foundation by Fidelis Care.
St. Apollonia, an early Christian martyr who lost all her teeth in a violent persecution, is known as the patron saint of dentistry. More than 85 Catholic dentists in the Diocese of Buffalo make up the Guild of St. Apollonia, named for the saint and guided by her Christian example. Members provide free dental services to the poor and less fortunate.
This past year, Fidelis Care -- established by diocesan bishops as the New York State Catholic Health Plan to further Catholic healthcare ministry -- awarded a $36,000 grant to the Foundation to be used in collaboration with the Guild of St. Apollonia and Catholic Charities to serve the dental needs of the poor.
Through this collaborative effort, Catholic Charities refers patients in need to member dentists of the Guild who provide pro bono services, while the Foundation manages the grant funds.
According to long-time Guild member, past president and current treasurer, Dr. Joseph LaNasa, the grant will enable the Catholic dentists to help even more people with a wide range of services from extractions and fillings to emergency treatment. "The greatest challenge for many of these clients is getting to and from the dentist's office," Dr. LaNasa explained. "The grant will allow us to offer transportation vouchers to make it easier for patients to attend their appointments." In addition to transportation, the funds will help cover lab fees for dentures and other oral prosthetics that may be necessary.
Current president of the Guild is Dr. John C. Buscaglia and Msgr. Robert Zapfel, pastor of St. Leo the Great Church, serves as the group's spiritual director. Founded in 1930, the Guild estimates that it serves as many as 300 clients in need each year, at no cost to the patient.
Dr. LaNasa and his wife, Deena, who assisted her husband in his practice, have dedicated their time and talents to the Guild of St. Apollonia for decades and see it as part of their calling in the Catholic faith. They also established the Dr. & Mrs. Joseph A. LaNasa Fund through the Foundation to offer additional support for specific requests for equipment and supplies made by the Guild.
"In the spirit of Christianity, the dentists of the Guild give people hope by helping them improve their health and giving them reason to smile," Dr. LaNasa concluded. "It is a very rewarding experience."