Deacon Alan Rastrelli, M.D.
Listening to the "Still, Small Voice"
By Randal C. Phillips
What do San Antonio, anesthesiology, and the dignity of human suffering have in common? These are a few of the many important things to know about Deacon Alan Rastrelli. Read on to find out more about his faith journey and calling to the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
Dr. Alan Rastrelli was recently ordained to the Diaconate Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver. A long-time member of our community, he was asked by Archbishop Chaput to serve his first assignment at Saint Thomas More Parish.
Alan was born in Wichita, Kansas, and lived there until he was five when his family moved to San Antonio, Texas. One of four children, he was raised in a Catholic home and attended Catholic schools in San Antonio all the way through college. As an undergraduate at St. Mary's University, Alan double majored in biology and chemistry. During that time he met his future wife, Brenda. Following graduation from college, he entered the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Brenda and Alan were married in 1975, during his first year of medical school. After earning his M.D. degree Alan completed a residency in anesthesiology at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Then he served three years as a resident instructor in anesthesiology at the Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco.
In 1986, the Rastrellis moved to Denver, to raise their children and begin the next chapter of Alan's medical career. Since that time, he has practiced anesthesiology as a Kaiser Permanente physician. He is based primarily at St. Joseph Hospital.
About 1995, Alan felt his focus start to expand from his priorities of career and family, to even wider pursuits. During that time Alan started to feel the tug of the Holy Spirit calling him to a deeper love for Christ, for truth, and for the Church. Through the example of a Church deacon who he respected, Alan began to consider whether the Lord was calling him to something beyond his personal goals and aspirations. He and his wife began to study the writings of Pope John Paul II on life and family. Through their studies, and the witness of the Holy Spirit, they were given a greater love for the respect for life that lies at the center of Christ's teaching and the message of His Church to the world. In 2001, as the youngest of his seven children grew older, Alan entered into the four year deaconate formation program leading to ordination as a deacon for the Archdiocese of Denver.
About the same time, the Lord also began speaking to Alan in a special way through his medical practice. In 2001, Kaiser Permanente recognized the need for specialized care for patients and families facing end-of-life decisions. Kaiser researched the value of helping patients and their families cope with end-of-life issues and decisions by assembling a team consisting of a physician (Alan), a nurse, a social worker, and a chaplain. The Lord had already been preparing Alan's heart; now He was giving Alan an opportunity to put his faith into action through this task force!
The team spent two years completing the research project. They examined the issues at multiple sites, and made recommendations to Kaiser. As a result, Kaiser committed the resources for a full-time palliative care team at St. Joseph Hospital. As a physician on the team, Alan dedicates his professional efforts to helping terminally ill patients and their families while continuing to practice anesthesiology. He helps these individuals make informed decisions regarding pain management and end-of-life issues that balance all of the technological options available while maintaining the dignity of the human person.
While completing the diaconate formation program, Deacon Rastrelli recalls being reminded of the roles that God gives each person in the Church. While sharing some thoughts prior to his ordination, Deacon Rastrelli said "when you grow spiritually, gifts and awareness open up to you, doors open to you, possibilities open up to you to serve Christ." He feels that, "as members of the lay priesthood, we all have our own important roles within the body of Christ." When asked about his thoughts on our roles as Christians in the world, Deacon Rastrelli said, "listen to the call of the Holy Spirit and ask yourself, to what life is He calling you?"
As Deacon Rastrelli begins his ministry at St. Thomas More Parish we can all be encouraged and reminded to consider: to what life is the Lord calling you? The only way to find out is to listen to the still, small voice, and then answer His call!