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A Conference Call to Good Health

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Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, hosted the 16th Annual Medicine, Bioethics, and Spirituality Conference on Nov. 6-7. This was our first virtual conference, and it was a tremendous success. 

This event brought together world renowned Marian speakers to address important spiritual issues in medicine. Such rich pastoral guidance not only better prepared healthcare providers to face the increasing challenges in medical practice, but it also prepared anyone who serves as a caregiver for family or others in need. The talks provided important insights on how to cherish the sanctity of life throughout all its stages. Attendees gained a better understanding on how to care for others with the utmost respect for life. 

Dr. Bryan Thatcher, the international director of Doctors for Divine Mercy and founder of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy, opened the conference with a powerful talk on the journey of a soul, with reflections on the spiritualities of St. Teresa of Avila and St. Faustina. This empowered conference attendees to strive to practice lives of virtue in medicine amidst struggles and disappointments. 

Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, theologian and former vice-postulator for the beatification and canonization cause of St. Faustina, gave a brilliant presentation regarding pro-life reflections from St. Faustina's Divine Mercy revelations. 

The Very Rev. Kaz Chwalek, MIC, provincial superior for the Marian Fathers in the United States and Argentina, then gave an astounding talk regarding the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, encouraging caregivers to practice them daily. 

In a highly motivational talk, Br. Jason Lewis, MIC, spoke on addiction and Divine Mercy. He helped attendees better recognize addictions not only in those they care for, but also in their own lives. He also discussed successful management approaches with Divine Mercy spirituality. 

Father Chris Alar, director of the Association of Marian Helpers, provided a dynamic keynote address considering Church teachings on the end-of-life issues. 

Dr. George Delgado, a family medical practitioner and director of the non-profit group Abortion Pill Reversal, provided great hope for women who used the abortion pill and then regretted their decision. His groundbreaking work with abortion pill reversal has become a beacon of hope in the pro-life movement.

Todd Lentocha, a retired police officer, shared his personal story as a survivor of a catastrophic head injury. This moving testament of hope helped attendees more fully appreciate the power of prayer and trust in God's unfathomable mercy. 

Nurse Marie Romagnano, MSN, RN, CCM, the founder of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, helped care for Mr. Lentocha. She further addressed the need for urgent spiritual care in medical practice. She subsequently presented her own challenges of living with giant cell arteritis. 

Dr. Brian Burkey, a head and neck oncology surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, followed with a highly informative talk on how to have difficult conversations with patients and their families. This was extremely helpful for any provider to consider when delivering bad news to patients about their medical condition.  

The miracle of life was stressed by Dr. Michael Parker, president of the National Catholic Medical Association. He shared his personal journey as a Catholic obstetrician/gynecologist and his dramatic conversion through the power of the Holy Spirit. His medical practice was transformed to a pro-life approach based on Catholic moral teaching. Dr. Parker encouraged others to know and live their Catholic faith to the fullest by giving themselves to others as to Christ.  

Sister Gaudia Skass, OLM, of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, was our keynote speaker from the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. She reminded healthcare professionals of their mission to save lives. Yet she stressed that Christian healthcare professionals' mission is to save eternal lives. Sister Gaudia noted that, as Christians, we are in a serious spiritual war with immortal souls at stake. We have three enemies to contend with: the flesh, the world, and the father of lies, the devil. She stressed that every choice we make is serious with regards to our eternal destiny. Sister Gaudia then noted that with the spiritual weapons of courageous prayer and suffering, we may be victorious for the salvation of souls. 

Given the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the world, some presentations addressed the magnitude of this tragedy and its strain on healthcare providers. Dr. Alan Taege, an infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, reviewed the nature of COVID-19 and its effects in the world. He provided the hope of vaccines to help limit its spread and protect others from this life-threatening disease. 

Hannah Fortin, an intensive care unit nurse and member of the COVID-19 Rapid Response Team at the Catholic Medical Center (Manchester, N.H.), shared a beautiful personal witness from her medical practice during the pandemic. 

Father Joseph Roesch, MIC, the Marian Fathers' vicar general residing in Rome, shared key insights on how the pandemic rapidly evolved, taking many lives in Italy before it spread to the United States. 

Dr. Ronald Sobecks, MD, an oncologist and hematologist at the Cleveland Clinic, spoke about the widespread problem of healthcare provider burnout, a problem that has only grown worse as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified. He provided spiritual strategies, including Divine Mercy, that may help healthcare professionals embrace and overcome challenges while fostering resilience against burnout. 

Bioethical concerns in medicine have continued to cause conflict with Catholic moral teaching. Such concerns were discussed during this conference. Bishop Robert McManus' presentation focused on the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, to help guide providers in their practice of medicine. Dr. Christopher Klofft, an associate professor of theology at Assumption University, elegantly reviewed the foundations of Christian anthropology. His talk clearly displayed the God-given dignity of every human person that needs to be considered in light of bioethical and moral principles.

Subsequently, Fr. Joseph Koopman, the moral theologian for the Diocese of Cleveland, shared a critical moral analysis regarding the meaning of sexuality and medical interventions involving procreation. These important bioethical presentations were not only beneficial for healthcare professionals, but for everyone. They are particularly important since many, if not most, people at some point in their lives will have to help care for a loved one or provide support for others with medical needs. These bioethical principles will help guide us to make appropriate decisions when providing care or making end-of-life decisions.

As always conference attendees were excited about the conference and had the chance to email speakers with questions. This unique educational conference was our first virtual event, and the presentations will be available at conference.thedivinemercy.org.

We hope that this conference from Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy will help the world more fully appreciate that the Lord's Divine Mercy is the definitive source of all healing. May Our Lady of Mercy protect you and may Jesus, the Divine Mercy, bless you and your families always in His unfathomable Divine Mercy.

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