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Photo: Felix Carroll
A lapel pin with the image of The Divine Mercy on it. A stack of prayercards that explain how to pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. A few spare rosaries.
These are among the tools of Debbie Slavin's trade.
Each day, when she begins her shift in the emergency department of Miriam Hospital, in Providence, R.I., she is armed and merciful.
A registered nurse, Debbie is a member of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. The apostolate was founded in 2001 by a Marian Helper, Marie Romagnano, RN, a nurse case manager from Charlton, Mass.
What does being a member of this apostolate mean for Debbie? Many things — professionally, spiritually, and socially.
First, professionally: Like thousands of well-educated, modern-minded doctors, nurses, social workers, and therapists worldwide who have joined Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, Debbie incorporates spiritual care with medical care. Specifically, through training from the Marians, she has learned to serve as a spiritual link to Jesus — to become His merciful presence at the bedside of her patients, many of who are dying or suffering serious or terminal illnesses.
She does this through praying — for them and sometimes with them — the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, a powerful intercessory prayer given to St. Faustina by Christ Himself. She also gives away rosaries to anyone who wants them .
Her work hasn't gone unnoticed. In June, she was named Employee of the Month at Miriam Hospital, which, by the way, is a secular hospital.
A few hours before she was to be presented with the award, she realized the hour at which the presentation was to occur: 3 o'clock — the Hour of Great Mercy, when Christ died on the cross. In a speech before her peers, she spoke of the significance of the Hour of Great Mercy. She spoke of how she was called to deeds of mercy, to be Christ's "hands and feet" in a hurting world.
"Rather than looking at what I have done," she told her peers, "I say, 'Thanks be to God for what He does through people like me.'"
Spiritually, what being a member of the Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy means for Debbie is having the opportunity to become more spiritually fit.
In 2005, she was urged by a friend to attend the annual Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy Conference in Worcester, Mass. She said "yes," and has been saying "yes" to The Divine Mercy ever since.
"The more you say 'yes,'" says Debbie, of Pawtucket, R.I., a mother of two grown sons, "the more this all takes a life of its own."
She has also taken the advice of the spiritual director of the apostolate, Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, who has urged members to mature in their own faith so that they may better serve others.
As a result, Debbie has made the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass., her "spiritual home." She attends spiritual retreats and the conferences. She's also joined the Marians Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. And she regularly draws inspiration from the St. Faustina's Diary — which chronicles the Polish nun's revelations. Through St. Faustina, Jesus Christ calls upon us to trust in Him, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others.
"I felt that these things put me in line with the Marians' spirituality," Debbie says, "and that's what I truly wanted."
Working in an atmosphere often marked by tragedy, anxiety, and fear — that is to say, in the emergency room in a major metropolitan area — Debbie has become a merciful presence for many. In return, she says, the graces keep coming.
For instance, she recently was informed that the Most Rev. George H. Pearce, S.M., the former archbishop of Suva, Fiji, who assisted the Marians in the English translation of St. Faustina's Diary, was recuperating from surgery in her hospital. She paid him a visit. She prayed for him by his bedside. For comfort, she left him with an image of The Divine Mercy. She leaves such images with others, too.
"The people I work with know when I've been around," Debbie says with a laugh.
As for socially, Debbie has met many like-minded healthcare professionals — and many admirers of the apostolate. A stranger recently approached her during her shift, saw her lapel pin, and gasped "You're one of them!"
The stranger was impressed.
"We have to live this message of The Divine Mercy," Debbie says. "That's what Jesus wants from us. Everyday. Everywhere. We need to be vessels of Divine Mercy."
Learn more about Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy and how you can join this growing Marian apostolate.