Nursing with the Hands of Jesus

Nursing with the Hands of Jesus: A Guide to Nurses for Divine Mercy is the... 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.

A How-To
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.

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Allie - Jun 1, 2009

Seven yrs ago I was in a horrible car wreck. Severely injured, I lay in the Trauma/ER for hours in & out of consciousness. The neurosurgeons explained the extent of my injuries. I had two separate injuries that at a 95% probability would kill me within 1-48 hours. If the first one didn't get the other one would. My husband's a doctor & I'm a nurse so we understood the catastrophic nature of my wounds.
I said, "That's not compatible with life. How are you going to handle that?" "Well," the Vascular neurosurgeon said, "we've got some calls out to some medical centers and we are trying to formulate a plan." The High Spine neurosurgical specialist chimed in, rather tenderly, "Is there anything we can get for you?"
"Apparently a priest!" I retorted. "Oh, OK, sure" someone said as the neuro team eagerly escaped the unpleasantness .Waiting for the priest I began praying in my reflexive and well trained Catholic way. It's hard to believe but I felt extraordinarily lucky to be able to have a bit of notice of my impending death. Over and over, I said an Act of Contrition and many Hail Marys. "Now and at the hour of our death, Amen". And there I was at the hour of my death and yet I felt I was lucky to beg for God's forgiveness, thank my husband for 25 years of marriage and family, and tell him goodbye. I was anointed later that day but having slipped back in to unconsciousness, I don't remember it.
Healing blessings continued as I became one of the first to survive then recover from "the most deadly cluster of injuries" the MASS General Hospital's neuro surgeon ever saw.
This was before I knew about the Divine Mercy Ministry and I WAS lucky to be told how sick I was so I could put things right. Because of my Catholic upbringing, I had enough presence of mind to ask for a priest and to continue saying the Act of Contrition. And the medical staff followed through for me by providing a priest.
I'm working to share the news of the Divine Mercy with medical people so that others wont have to rely on "luck" and presence of mind at the hour of their death. The medical personnel can "multi-task" by addressing critical care and spiritual care

Deacon - May 7, 2009

I am very curious, I have read the Diary and have been involved with Saint Faustina's Mission for a longtime, Why is it that just RN's get the time and LPNs do not? My wife is a LPN and she is real Spiritual and very devoted to God and she puts all that she does in the Loving hands of God. She does a lot with the elderly. As a matter of fact she at one time was with a women who was on her way out, she held her hand and she was telling the women that everything is ok and if you see Jesus take His hand. Well the women past on and then as she was looking at her paper work she realized that she was a Jewish women. It was kind of funny. At times you as nurses will be with the person before they leave this world and you may be the last face they see, so being spiritual is what you should be and being able to bring Jesus to whoever you see, Jew or Gentile. This isone of many missions, a very important mission that is! :) One last thing that I would like to say is that NURSING is not a occupation it is a Vocation.The ones that make it through those, brutal at time, classes, can only do it by the Grace of God. I thank God for you Nurses and I pray for the mission of the good Samaritan to be continuous in your Hearts.

sheryll - Apr 3, 2009

My experience with the Divine mercy is very personal and powerful, when I gave birth to my second child, he had complications and he needed to stay in NICU, It was so heartbreaking to see your child suffering, but I hold on and pray the chaplet and put the image of the Divine Mercy beside my baby, I was not hesitated nor ashame of my faith for I know I have the spiritual right to practice. And truly God is merciful for he healed my baby and blessed him good health.

maria - Mar 14, 2009

Good to hear that there are no restrictions on asking about faith issues ; having heard how the Chaplet can be slightly modifeid, to add the proper name of the person ( 'have mercy on --- and the whole world ' also seems to add a bit of a personal touch to the prayer and when said with the names of all family members etc : , adds more interest - esp. for the little ones :)

Mary - Mar 13, 2009

With all my heart, I can say proudly how the chaplet of the Divine Mercy touched me and is one of the strongest reason why I spread Divine Mercy now. My parents were so devoted to the Mercy of Jesus that at the end of their lives the chanting or recitation of the chaplet was their great lullaby. Five years ago, I saw how sweet the chaplet when said for those in the hospital. My mother was confined in the ICU then. Everyday the chaplet was said and even the nurses learned how to say it eventually. These Mercy moments were so incredible as my mother went through a kind of " peaceful " pause from her physical pains. She died peacefully to the tune of the chaplet. Ten months later, my father had a stroke rendering him in coma. Same situation, everyday almost every hour we said the chaplet for him . The caregivers themselves would say : " Sir, we will do the chaplet ". That was a heartbreaking moment of witnessing. Both their burials from the church to the memorial park and to the moment when earth covered them - the singing of the chaplet was the only background music. Yes, we need His Mercy whereever we are but specially as the curtain is about to close for the final encounter ! Amen dear Divine Mercy !

Elizabeth - Mar 13, 2009

I was so pleased to read this article. Many families in our culture now don't even go to Church, let alone pray. So the "good news" is that you are arming the nurses and doctors to be "Soldiers for Christ"! I shared the Divine Mercy prayer several months ago to a Catholic friend who did not have a prayer life. Praise God she took it to heart because she was with her dying Aunt a month ago and the priest did not show up. But she knew the Divine Mercy Chaplet and was able to recite it sitting next to her Aunt. My friend remembered the promise of Mercy given to the person who was dying and had someone to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Thank you for your dedication to your work and your apostalate. God bless.

Cheryl - Mar 13, 2009

I watched EWTN and have read the book associated with this ministry. I think spiritual care is vital to a patient, particularly one facing a major operation or pending death. Hearing the words spoken in an often dire situation bring such comfort. But they can't be spoken in a perfunctory manner. Over the last four years, my late sister and father and now dying mother have had the anointing of the sick both in hospital and home settings and in each case the different priests acted like they were embarrassed by being asked to give the sacrament, nor really sold on its efficacy and had a really pressing engagement elsewhere that they had to rush off to. I wish someone would tell priests that the anointing of the sick is a Really Big Deal for believing Catholic patients and their families and that they need to give the sacrament its due. It may be that modern priests are uncomfortable with sickness and death, but I remember when my grandmother had what was then called Extreme Unction at our home. The priest lit candles, the dying person was asked to kiss the crucifix, the family surrounded the bed. There was great solemnity and moment. I'm not saying that we have to scare the patient, but the anointing shouldn't look so blase that the individual thinks it only has the import of a simple blessing. The anointing the priest gives may be the last chance that sick person has to square with God before they die. Please pass on this comment at the conference, whoever reads this. Tell priests, to bring back the dignity of this very important sacrament when anointing the sick and dying, please.

mary - Mar 12, 2009

Ive read your article and seen it on TV and feel to say that we have nurses doctors ministers in our hospice nurses care for patients,and I feel to say they have plenty of work to do,and not just pray.sorry if you dont like what I write but it is the family job to pray and I know they do cause I was with many families who read the bible.