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 | By Mary D. Dillard

God’s Clinic

Right here in the Diocese of Birmingham, missionary work is being done, just not the kind people think of most. “This is the kind of work,” says Mayra Short, administrative director of Huntsville’s Clinica Medica Moscati, “that once you walk into it, you can’t turn your back.” Her involvement in this “kind of work,” however, was something for which God had to prepare her and her husband, Tom.

Short was born in Cuba under Fidel Castro’s communist regime. At the age of two, her family fled the regime and arrived in Miami, where they were greeted “with open arms.” Ultimately, her family relocated to Puerto Rico, where Short met her husband of over 40 years at her Catholic high school. Since her and her husband’s formative years were spent in “lukewarm” Catholic families, their Catholic education played an important role in their preparation. “Catholic schools are instrumental in passing on the faith, especially for children that, like us, are not being properly formed in their homes,” she asserts. The closeness she felt to her faith continued through her high school years. Sadly, after graduation, when she no longer had the support of her school community, she stepped away from actively practicing her faith. 

Fifteen years would pass before Short felt a familiar yearning in her heart. She was 30 years old and wanted to start attending Mass again. She found out that her local parish was holding a retreat, so she decided to attend. “I had not been to confession in almost 15 years,” she remembers, “and my heart felt heavy, so I went in. That following Sunday I received the Eucharist for the first time in as many years, and I had an overwhelming experience of Christ. I remember returning to my pew, and I could not even pray. In my heart and mind, all I could say was, ‘You are so beautiful. You are so beautiful.’” 

From that point on, Short says her heart was “on fire” for the Lord and her Catholic faith. She took to her rosary to pray for her husband’s conversion. Day after day, she fervently prayed, asking for our Lady’s intercession. 

In 1992, her husband was hired as a gastroenterologist by a multi-specialty group in Madisonville, Kentucky. At her new parish, she learned about Cursillo. Instantly, Short knew she wanted to attend; however, there was a “catch.” Her pastor informed her that she could only participate after her husband had attended the men’s Cursillo. Having just started his new job, she was certain he would say no, but to her amazement, he said without any fanfare, “Sure.” According to Short, that weekend was “the vehicle” the Lord used to set her husband’s “heart on fire” for his faith.

Two weeks after her husband completed his Cursillo, Short was off to attend her weekend. As with her husband, the four days would be yet another stepping stone on her journey of preparation. During the closing Mass for the Cursillo weekend, those in attendance were invited to share something heavy on their hearts. Short stood up and unexpectedly said, “There is so much suffering in this world, and I just want to be God’s Band-Aid.” 

“God is always listening,” says Short, and according to her, there was a promise contained in that spontaneous little prayer. Naturally, God’s time is not our time, and it would be 28 years before God would bring the prayer to fulfillment.

Over the course of those 28 years, the Shorts would find themselves parents to four wonderful children and in Alabama with a private gastroenterology practice in Decatur. A “good number” of Hispanics would come to the practice, shining a glaring light on a need within the community. To help with this need, Short and her husband donated to the St. John the Baptist St. Vincent de Paul Conference, but she wanted to do more.

As a way to help, she interpreted for patients. In 2020, she was helping a parishioner of Huntsville’s Holy Spirit Catholic Church,    and the care the doctor was providing was not adequate. When she picked up the phone to call the 40 doctors who, according to insurance providers, spoke Spanish, she was shocked at the result. She could not find any bilingual primary care doctors in all of Huntsville. Short remembers, “I turned to my husband and said, ‘Houston, we have a problem.’”

The couple’s years of growing together in their faith was yet another avenue of preparation. “To say that the faith is everything to us is an understatement,” Short insists when talking about her marriage. “It is the prism through which we see the world and ourselves. Our relationship with God trumps all other relationships, including our own! He, Love Itself, is the source of all love, of all good, of all holiness. He gives us the desire to do good and the call in which to fulfill that desire. It is all, always, His work.”

Without any discussion, the two went to Father Jonathan Howell, then associate pastor of Holy Spirit Catholic Church, with the idea to open a clinic for uninsured Hispanics in honor of St. Guiseppe Moscati, known as the doctor of the poor. “It was that simple,” recollects Short. Father Howell loved the idea, and on Jan. 6, 2021, the doors of Clinica Medica Moscati were opened. “From the get-go,” Short recalls, “we realized this was truly God’s clinic. Everything about it was miraculous. From the office space we leased to the doctors that volunteered and the staff, it has all been miraculous and amazing.”

Short and her husband endeavor to run a totally Catholic clinic. There are Bible verses emblazoned on each exam room wall, along with a crucifix. An image of the Blessed Mother greets everyone who enters the clinic, and sacramentals and Mass times are available at the reception desk. Recently, a monthly Rosary was added to each first Friday to unite staff and patients in praying for them and the clinic. “Everything here is soft evangelization … This is for His glory!”

With tears in her eyes, Short explains that she sees the face of God in each and every patient who comes to the clinic in search of care, whether it be a 35-year-old woman blind from diabetes or a man almost crippled from picking up 130-lb. boulders by hand for his job. “They humble me … They're hard-working. They're good people, and they're suffering. So many of them don't have a place to go or somebody who wants to see them.”

Short holds true to the notion that to whom much is given, much will be required. She strongly believes that her many spiritual and temporal blessings have all been gifts, “overflowing from God’s mercy and love.” For her, it boils down to the simple question: “If God has been so incredibly merciful to us, how can we not extend that mercy to others?” Admittedly, mercy is not easy, but we, like Short and her husband, must try to hear God’s call to action. “It is not enough to know they are suffering,” insists Short. “Somehow, by God’s grace, we must try to be instruments of His mercy. It is all God’s gift, and it is for us to share His gifts.”

Clinica Medica Moscati is the only clinic of its kind in all of Alabama. It is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, internal medicine clinic, opened specifically for the care of uninsured Hispanics. Short and her husband have worked to keep the clinic low-cost, employing the help of volunteer specialists, the St. Vincent de Paul Conference in Huntsville, and benefactors. Sadly, even with all the volunteer hours, including those of Short and her husband, the cost of running the clinic exceeds the income it produces. 

The need for the clinic was grossly underestimated and the clinic is in desperate need of certain specialists, especially an orthopedist, as well as donors. Above all, Short says, “We need prayers and intercession for the clinic and our patients.”

Ways to help:

  • Join the 11/16 Program. The feast day of the clinic’s patron, St. Guiseppe Moscati, is Nov. 11, so consider signing up to donate $11.16 each month; 100 percent of all donations go to the clinic.
  • Donate needed items.
  • Donate your time to build the clinic’s website.
  • Are you a physician? If so, please consider offering your medical expertise.
  • Consider becoming a benefactor. You can make a difference in the lives of our less fortunate brothers and sisters in Christ.

For more information on the ways to help, contact the clinic at either 256.715.1054 or