Catholic Free Press

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  • May
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Applying God’s mercy

Posted By May 15, 2014 | 1:06 pm | Lead Story #3

By Tanya Connor

Celebrating a conference’s milestone gave those involved a chance to ponder how to apply and spread its message.
It was the 10th Annual Divine Mercy Medicine, Bioethics and Spirituality Conference, held May 7 and 8 at the College of the Holy Cross.
It is sponsored by Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, founded Sept. 11, 2001 by Marie Romagnano, a catastrophic injury registered nurse for her company, Med-Link Inc., and a member of St. Joseph Basilica in Webster.  Healthcare Professionals is an apostolate of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
One of the Marians’ ministries is The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, which promotes the Divine Mercy message, from Jesus’ apparitions to Sister Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s. The website,, says the message involves asking for God’s mercy, being merciful and trusting in Jesus.
Ms. Romagnano encourages conference participants to give patients the Divine Mercy image and pray for them with the Divine Mercy chaplet, which also came from St. Faustina’s apparitions.
Ms. Romagnano said more than 200 people each day attended this year’s conference. She told participants the future depends on them and that Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy has been asked to organize conferences in the Midwest and the West. They also are inviting medical schools to use DVDs of the conferences, as Loyola University in New Orleans has done for its nursing school, she said.
Ms. Romagnano said she wants to further share the spirituality of mercy among other faith communities. She wants to expand “Nursing with the Hands of Jesus: A Guide to Nurses for Divine Mercy” to include all healthcare professionals and publish a manual to help the public apply the Divine Mercy message and devotion to the sick.
Susan Sirois, a physical therapist, said conference participants have heard about speakers’ conversions over the years.
“It’s better and better every year,” she said. “It’s more of a retreat for me than a conference,” beginning and ending with Mass.
At the closing Mass, Bishop McManus said he thought that “mercy” tied the recently canonized Saints John XXIII and John Paul II together. He said Pope John XXIII said one reason he called Vatican Council II was to apply the medicine of mercy to the world, to promote holiness. Pope John Paul II wrote “Dives in Misericordia,” an encyclical about mercy.
Pope Francis has become the great image of mercy, speaking of the Church as a field hospital where the sick can be healed, the bishop added.
He said the greatest act of mercy was Jesus completely offering himself for human beings on Good Friday, so they might see the beautiful face of God, which is mercy.
Christine Batamack, a physician at Spaulding North Shore, focused on Father Mark Yavarone’s talks about responsible freedom, saying she faces that at work and in parenting.
She brought her 10-year-old son Yvann to the conference because she didn’t have a babysitter. It turns out that he learned a lesson and gave a lesson.
“I learned that Divine Mercy is a powerful tool … because the Lord, he’s like, the Divine Physician,” Yvann said afterwards. “It’s like Divine Mercy’s a medicine; he gives us a certain dose of it.”
At the beginning of one of his talks Father Yavarone said that Yvann had prayed aloud over him when he asked for a prayer before speaking.
The whole discussion at the conference “awakens our conscience,” said Dr. Batamack. “It’s going to get me to read a little more.” She said it’s important to pray and make sure one is acting in line with God’s will.
Doing things according to God’s will could get healthcare professionals in trouble with the law, one speaker said during a panel Bishop McManus led.
“There may come a time when my license to practice medicine is removed because of how I practice medicine,” said Dr. John S. Howland, a family practitioner in Southbridge. He was responding to a question about healthcare professionals’ conscience rights. Dr. Howland said he can still serve God, and may be jailed for it, but Christians win in the end.             Panelist Father Yavarone responded to a question about someone choosing not to treat a dementia patient’s medical condition, hoping that would hasten death. Sometimes the proxy is the one who needs pastoral care, Father Yavarone suggested. Let the proxy talk it out and perhaps explain to the proxy, when appropriate, “We’re here to love the person, but we can’t cause death,” he said.
Speakers made it clear that not all treatment is medically beneficial or morally required.
Dr. Scot Bateman focused on helping people deal with appropriate withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment. He is the division chief of pediatric critical care at UMass Memorial Medical Center and associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
“Withdrawal of support does not mean withdrawal of care,” Dr. Bateman said. “We’re not killing a patient. We’re allowing natural death.” Two thirds of the deaths in the pediatric intensive care unit are from withdrawal of support, he said.
He talked about the role of physicians’ assessments and parents’ wishes in making such decisions, and applied Catholic directives.
Important to parents are physicians’ recommendations, and their child’s diagnosis, expected neurological recovery and degree of suffering, he said. Their experience with death and belief in miracles influence their decision to forgo life-sustaining treatment.
“I believe in miracles too,” Dr. Bateman said. “Even atheists believe in miracles. … There’s very few atheists in the hospital room of a critically ill child.”
He said he has seen miracles, but many are not what was expected. He told of a family praying for a miracle for a brain-dead girl. The chaplain helped them see the wisdom of donating her organs, which benefitted others, and they called that a miracle.
The spiritual needs of patient and family must be addressed with the sacraments as applicable, Dr. Bateman said. Parents of children in the PICU need to maintain a connection with their child before, during and after death, he said.
Important in interacting with staff is having a culture where intensive and palliative care can be balanced, he said. Intensive care fights death; palliative care promotes physical, psychological, social and spiritual comfort.
Dr. Bateman called for creating a sacred space by silencing alarms and speaking respectfully, and allowing for rituals, touch and sharing of stories. His unit places a card on the door of a child who has just died, alerting staff to be respectful, he said. Families are allowed to stay at the bedside after death. A nurse stays with them.
Gathering health care professionals together after their patient dies helps them heal and care for the next patient, he said.
“When people look in your eyes, they need to see the face of Jesus,” Dr. Bryan Thatcher told listeners. Director of Doctors for Divine Mercy and founder of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy, he spoke about “Being a Catholic Witness in a Hostile World.”
“You’ve got to be prayed up,” he said. “You go to Mass, receive the Eucharist. There’ll be times you’re so stressed out you lose your cool.” (So there’s confession.) “You are called to be a cheerful person when you walk into a patient’s room. … We’re all called to be saints.”