The Divine Mercy Message and Devotion

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By Terry Peloquin (Sep 24, 2020)
Usually, mainly healthcare professionals attended. Usually, there's a conference in May and in November. Usually, people attend in Worcester or Cleveland.

But this year has been anything but usual.

Because of the pandemic, the 16th Annual Divine Mercy Medicine, Bioethics, and Spirituality Conference never happened in May, and an in-person event for November was out of the question.

"So, we decided to boldly step out and go with a virtual conference" says co-planner Marie Romagnano, MSN, RN, CCM. "It also will be the first time we combine the two events — having one day with the speakers from Worcester and another day with the speakers from Cleveland. UMass Medical School worked with us closely to provide the academic continuing education credits for healthcare professionals participating in this virtual conference."

The conference will run Nov. 6-7, sponsored by Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.

Featured speakers include:
•Bishop Robert McManus of the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts
"Catholic and Religious Directives"

• Dr. Michael Parker, President of National Catholic Medical Association
"Why Do We Need Catholic Healthcare"

• Sr. Gaudia Skass, OLM, Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy (St. Faustina's Congregation).
"More Than Healing the Body and Saving Lives: Total Engagement in Helping Patients"

• Hannah Fortin, BSN, RN, CCRN, Catholic Medical Center, Manchester, New Hampshire; ICU nurse and member of the COVID-19 Rapid Response Team
"Frontline Hospital Care: A Nurse's Witness to the COVID-19 Pandemic"

Hannah, a graduate of Franciscan University Department of Nursing, worked during the pandemic as a frontline ICU rapid response nurse, and she has particular insights and a unique perspective during this time of rendering care to extremely ill COVID-19 patients.

Among other renowned theologians and healthcare professionals are four Marian Fathers and another Marian apostolate:

• Fr. Joseph Roesch, MIC, Vicar General in Rome, Italy
"Reflections on the Beginning of the Pandemic in Italy"

• Very Rev. Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, BA, STB, STL (Cand.), Provincial Superior
"The Works of Mercy: Embodiment of Nursing and Medicine"

• Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, PhB, STL, SEOL
"Healing in the Rays of The Divine Mercy: Placing Patients in the Healing Rays of Divine Mercy"

• Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, Director of the Association of Marian Helpers
"Church Teachings on the End-of-Life Issues"

• Bryan Thatcher, MD, International Director, Doctors for Divine Mercy; Founder, Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy
"Journey of a Soul: A look at Sts. Teresa of Avila and Faustina and Patient Care."

Nurse Marie emphasizes that the tremendous lineup of speakers is in great part thanks to Dr. Ron Sobecks, Professor, Dept. of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Taussig Cancer Institute, Cleveland Clinic. Doctor Sobecks himself will address healthcare provider burnout. An experienced trauma and catastrophic injury nurse, Marie will talk on urgent spiritual care.

This year's first virtual conference also has much to offer non-healthcare professionals. Talks will help families to know more about end-of-life and other important healthcare issues. "We all are a healthcare provider in some way or other," said Nurse Marie.

"We're all in this together," says Dr. Sobecks. "Of course, this isn't just in the healthcare field. It's in all walks of life. People take care of parents, their kids, their various family members or friends in some regard, not only physically but spiritually."

For healthcare professionals, the conference promises spiritual support. "There's a tremendous burden during such dangerous work," Marie said about the challenges of working during the COVID-19 crisis. "I want attendees to know that they are not alone. There's hope during this pandemic. We really have to rely on Jesus — the Divine Mercy — and on Our Lady and the Sacraments. Also to support each other in prayer."

Months before the May conference was canceled, Dr. Sobecks had planned to give a talk on burnout. His topic has become all the more relevant. "Before COVID-19, we already had extreme demands on healthcare providers. Then COVID-19 added beyond belief to the whole concept of burnout. There are only so many hours in a day, and the medical field has already been a stressful environment. Add the demands of family life and everything else, and one's time each day just gets crunched away. A number of people have changed careers, suicide rates increased, substance abuse rose. It's a very difficult thing. Many enter the healthcare field in their 20s with altruistic aspirations, but none of us know what the future holds and how the demands of medicine will affect their lives. I am hoping my talk will convey not only the problem of burnout in the healthcare field, but also the definitive source of healing through Divine Mercy which is available to all. As we experience and embrace the Lord's mercy we are reminded of the necessity for us to share this unfathomable source of grace with others who don't have such faith, or perhaps need further encouragement to grow in their faith amidst the turmoil of life."

Proceeds from this conference go toward the printing and shipping of the leather-bound edition Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska. This project is one of the ways the Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy apostolate assists the Marians in spreading the message of Mercy

Doctor Sobecks says he learned about the Divine Mercy message as a fourth-year med student in 1992. "A woman in my church gave me a copy of the booklet The Divine Mercy Message and Devotion from the Marian Fathers. It changed my life forever and is the core of my being. The graces, once again, are not just for us, but to be shared with the world that is in such great need of healing."

The virtual Divine Mercy Medicine, Bioethics, and Spirituality Conference will run Nov. 6-7. Registration fees are reduced because it is online only. Healthcare professionals may choose to earn CEU/CME credits. See event details.

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