The first spiritual guide on the Divine Mercy mess... Read more
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It was one of those news stories that made you stop, gulp hard, and wonder darkly what the world was coming to. A nurse in England, Caroline Petrie, was suspended last month for offering to pray for a patient.
Though the nurse was later reinstated, her experience rattled many healthcare professionals in the United States who integrate faith-based care in their patient-treatment plans.
However, a wide-ranging interview on EWTN last Sunday helped to not only put healthcare professionals in the United States at ease, but also to empower them. The guest on Fr. Benedict Groeschel's show "Sunday Night Live" was Marie Romagnano, RN, founder of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The program will air once again on EWTN on Saturday, March 14, 5 p.m.
"I want every audience member to know that every single family member has the right to ask for spiritual care for their loved one," said Marie, a nurse case manager from Charlton, Mass.
Indeed, as she pointed out, the independent, not-for-profit organization, The Joint Commission, which accredits and certifies more than 15,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, requires that spiritual assessments be made of patients.
For example, such spiritual assessment may include the following questions directed to the patient or his or her family:
• Who or what provides the patient with strength and hope?
• Does the patient use prayer in their life?
• How does the patient express their spirituality?
• What type of spiritual/religious support does the patient desire?
• What is the name of the patient's clergy, ministers, chaplains, pastor, rabbi?
• What are the patient's spiritual goals?
• Is there a role of church/synagogue in the patient's life?
• How does your faith help the patient cope with illness?
• What helps the patient get through this health care experience?
"So healthcare professionals should not fear losing their jobs if they choose to talk to the patient about religion," said Marie. "And patients and family members should feel free to ask for spiritual care."
Still, Marie acknowledged, not everyone knows of this. Father Groeschel himself noted that many of his fellow Friars in hospital ministry "are given the cold shoulder" by some hospital staff.
The Power of a Prayer
Through Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, Marie hopes to change such attitudes. She hastens to add that faith-based care draws from Western civilization's earliest medical traditions. Hospitals didn't even exist until Christians founded them centuries ago. Until recent history, most nurses were nuns. For them, providing care meant caring for the whole person — the physical person and the spiritual person.
Marie added that the many wonderful advancements in medicine and science in modern times don't change the simple fact that spirituality can bring comfort, even healing — even redemption — for the sick and dying.
In great part due to her steadfastness and faith, Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy has become a major force in the medical world, as evidenced by the more than 3,000 healthcare professionals worldwide who have joined the group since it was founded more than eight years ago.
The numbers continue to grow, in part through Marie's book, Nursing with the Hands of Jesus: A Guide to Nurses for Divine Mercy, written with Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, and Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, and in part due to Marie's annual Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy conferences.
The book is an 88-page call to action for healthcare professionals of faith to be "Jesus' hands and heart" at the bedside of the sick, injured, or dying. It includes not only a primer on The Divine Mercy message and devotion, but also a groundbreaking pastoral care application with medical treatment.
Moreover, more than 1,000 medical professionals have received pastoral-care training through Marie's annual conferences. This year's conference, on April 28-29, at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., will focus on patients' rights to pastoral care. Father Groeschel, who spoke on his Sunday program of how he has "been very much moved and impressed by The Divine Mercy devotion," will be one of the keynote speakers at the two-day conference. Learn more about the 5th Annual Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy Conference.
'Say Unceasingly the Chaplet'
Marie told Fr. Groeschel how she is driven in her ministry specifically by the extraordinary promises attached to a certain prayer our Lord gave to a certain humble Polish nun in the 1930s.
Indeed, at the center of Marie's ministry is the The Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, an intercessory prayer given by our Lord to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.
"The Chaplet of The Divine Mercy was given to St. Faustina especially as a remedy for the dying," Marie said. "Our Lord tells us, 'Say unceasingly the chaplet that I have taught you. Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death'" (Diary of St. Faustina, 687).
"The Chaplet of The Divine Mercy is the most powerful prayer you can say for the dying," said Marie.
In the interview Sunday night, Marie briefly explained how medical professionals can include The Divine Mercy message and devotion in their work. She said that for patients or their families who are open to spiritual care, medical staff can offer copies of the image of The Divine Mercy and prayercards with the chaplet. "By using The Divine Mercy devotion," said Marie, who always wears a pin on her nurses uniform with the image of The Divine Mercy, "it gives patients and their family members a tremendous amount of hope in the promises of Jesus."
She encourages medical staff to pick a time of day, before or after work, and pray the chaplet for the intentions of those who die within the next 24 hours.
"It can be a very, very important thing in a person's life and in their salvation," said Fr. Groeschel agreed. "It's nothing that you want to take lightly."
When All You Can Do Is Pray
Marie, who received her spiritual training through the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in Stockbridge, Mass., explained that Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy began as a direct result of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. She and a group of parish nurses were called by the Red Cross to go to New York City after the planes first hit the Twin Towers.
When the buildings collapsed they realized there would be no survivors, and the Red Cross told them they wouldn't be needed. All anyone could do at that point, said Marie, was pray. What grew from that experience , Marie said, was a realization that medical professionals, in their daily duties, can make a great impact by providing patients with spiritual care through prayer.
Toward the end of the program, Fr. Groeschel invited Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, who was in the audience, to speak of the importance of The Divine Mercy message.
"The Divine Mercy message has an incredibly healing component," Fr. Kazimierz said. Not just physical healing, he said, but spiritual healing as well. He spoke of how he has ministered to countless people who felt God had rejected them due to their sins. The message of The Divine Mercy, he said, helps people to "rebuild the image of God" and understand that He is a God of love and mercy who condemns the sin but not the sinner.
Among the callers to the live program was a registered nurse from a major New York City hospital who said she had attended one of Marie's conferences.
"My nurse manager asked me to share what I learned with her staff," the woman said. "So I had the opportunity to not only share the message of Divine Mercy with all these nurses in this New York City hospital, but some of them are praying the chaplet now for their patients."
She added, "Marie, you're doing a great job. Our patients love it when we share stories with them from the Diary of St. Faustina."
Visit the homepage of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy.