Photo: Joe Romagnano

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers, gives the keynote address at the 7th annual "Bioethics and Medicine" conference, May 5, 2011, at The College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass.

'Pain of the Soul'

Top Vatican Prelate on Healthcare Says Divine Mercy is the Answer

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By Dan Valenti (May 10, 2011)

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. May 6, 2011 — His Excellency Msgr. Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, told nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals that care, recovery, and coping with physical illness remains incomplete if it does not include a spiritual dimension.

"Suffering is a universal experience," Archbishop Zimowski said at the 7th annual "Biotethics and Medicine" conference of Health Care Professionals for Divine Mercy at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass. "It surrounds us and is at the basis of human existence. It is a reality in which we all, sooner or later, find ourselves involved and perhaps overwhelmed. It has been rightly affirmed that suffering is never neutral or indifferent. It tears our hearts and breaks our bodies. Since it accompanies man at every point on earth, suffering demands to be reconsidered."

In this reconsideration, the Vatican's ranking prelate on healthcare, urged doctors and nurses to look for ways in which they can ask patients about their spiritual lives. Dr. Scot Bateman — division chief, pediatric critical care and associate professor of clinical pediatrics, UMass Memorial Medical Center and UMass Medical School — cited studies that show that about six in 10 hospital patients want to be asked about their spiritual lives by doctors and nurses. Only 15 percent say they do not want to be asked.

Archbishop Zimowski, who served for eight years as bishop of Radom, Poland, and before that for 16 years under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) in the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, delivered the keynote address on both days of the May 4-5 conference. More than 300 healthcare professionals attended over the two days. Healthcare Professional for Divine Mercy is an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, a congregation based in Stockbridge, Mass.

"Though medicine manages to identify and treat physical suffering, it does not always identify and reach moral suffering, which is the pain of the soul," Archbishop Zimowski said. "The vastness and the many forms of moral suffering are certainly no less in number than the forms of physical illness. Moreover, suffering is as deep as man himself, because it manifests that depth which is proper to man but transcends it. It is one of those areas of man's life which, in a mysterious way, invite man to go beyond himself."

The Archbishop noted what eastern medicine has long observed: A patient's spiritual condition and attitude often determines one's progress in recovering from physical illness. He thanked the doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers for their dedication in bringing compassion and a moral dimension of care into hospitals, especially those that may resist the idea or be hesitant.

Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy offers nurses, physicians, and allied healthcare professionals a program of formation that integrates the spirituality and devotional elements of Catholicism (specifically the message of Divine Mercy) into patient care.

Other speakers at the conference included Bishop Robert McManus, STD, bishop of Worcester; Scot Bateman, MD; Marie Romagnano, RN, director, Healthcare Professional for Divine Mercy; Dr. Ronald Sobecks, MD; Dr. John Howland, MD; Dr. Helen Jackson, MD; Dr. Christian Sampson, MD; Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC; Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC; Dr. Bryan Thatcher, MD, director, Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy; Fr. Germain Kopaczynski, OFM.

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deb s rhode island - May 10, 2011

this was a powerful conference, with presentations that not only spoke about the patients which we see in our practices, but, about those who provide the care, those who pray to be the hands and feet of our Lord.
People walking into the emergency department where I am a staff nurse, may not have a life threatening illness, but, are broken, we are all in need of healing. I have found that asking, "what brings you peace?", or "Are you a person of prayer?", opens a door, to a conversation that so many people are aching to have.The Lord gives us the courage to share a Rosary, pray with patients, or offer a Divine Mercy image, knowing that we bring his merciful presence to those in need of his love and mercy is a deeply humbling experience.
What a blessing to have such dynamic speakers, to have the Archbishop spend so much time with us, and speaking with us individually, to inspire us.
For me, in addition to the speakers, is the opportunity to see our brothers and sisters in Christ, who are doing the same work, in their own job situations, some may see different people every day, while others care for the same individuals for long periods of time. We shared, how we prepare ourselves, through prayer, the Sacraments, being merciful in our deeds words and prayers.
Thank you to everyone who made this conference so powerful, to all who attended, we support each other with our prayers, sharing our stories, and sharing our faith.
May the Mantle of Our Lady protect and guide us as we bring our faith to the bedside, to the marketplace, to our families, and may the Lord, in his great mercy, fill our hearts with joy and peace, may we radiate his merciful love to everyone we meet.

joe m.j. - May 11, 2011

working at a detox i see the broken and suffering hearts of those who feel far from from there merciful GOD. i pray that i reflect the mercful JESUS to my wards as i carry out my duties. also as St.Francis said preach always and everywhere and when necessary use words. i'm grateful that the lord has placed me in a position to reach into these wonderful wounded souls and show them the mercy of GOD that they so richly deserve.also it's wonderful to know there are so many others that are quietly and gently reaching so many suffering and broken souls.may JESUS bless the work that you do.amen

M. - May 11, 2011

Good to see the image being given prominence ; in our media saturated lives with its flood of media images , the blessed Icon of Mercy can have a powerful impact , just as promised by our Lord .
Hope that all tmt. places that are free to have an image like the one being held in the above photo would get one ,as well as persons , to experience the benefits and blessings , of being able to bring all areas of oneself and of others , into His mercy , for the peace that it brings from recognising His nearness and the trust, that in Him , our problems can be transformed into power to bring more to His mercy !

Maureen C. - May 13, 2011

What a moving experience to be with so many faith-filled doctors,nurses and other health care professionals! It was a blessed experience! I just finished my 1st unit of CPE that Tuesday and attended the conference on Wednesday and Thursday. It was powerful confirmation for me of how God can carry the message of His loving mercy, compassion and healing through my ministry of chaplaincy. Thank you!

deb - May 14, 2011

I would encourage everyone to keep a journal of your patient encounters. Occasionally,take time to read, to look back on the entries. Looking back, you not only see the spiritual growth within your ministry, but, with praise, honor and thanksgiving to the Merciful Lord, seeing where he takes you, as you become a vessel of his endless mercy.
Recently, I was one of the triage nurses, when someone who works at the same hospital came in, crying, not just because of the physical pain, but, her emotional pain, asking her if she prays, if if I could offer her a Rosary, a Divine Mercy image, she cried,with her tears falling on my hands, as I gave her the Rosary and image. I told her to "let the mercy of the Lord, bathe you in warmth and light, give him your sorrow, he knows great sorrow, when you trust him, giving him your sorrow, you console him, and he will give his healing warmth and peace." I asked her to "let Our Lady protect and shelter you, that the rosary would bring you strength."
Recently she returned to work, and she came to look for me and thank me. This prompted me to look at my journal.
I am not an eloquent speaker , but the words were from my heart, inspired by the Lord, in his great mercy. When I read the entry, I was overcome with emotion, look at what he does with us, when we give him our yes, when we give him our will,when we given him our heart.
may you be blessed in all of your encounters, finding Christ, and bringing Christ.
God Bless.

Paz - Jan 26, 2012

It is so true that when one prays it eases the suffering and pain.Jesus helps us bear it.And,not only that,we get healed faster.
PRAYER,especially...THE MOST HOLY ROSARY AND THE DIVINE MERCY CHAPLET IS THE ANSWER.I am so happy and glad that doctors and nurses attended this conference.Patients should be treated with more love,tenderness care and compassion.
Let us all practice....MERCY.