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 St. Joseph Initiative educates on end-of-life issues

Posted By June 8, 2017 | 6:25 pm | Lead Story #3
Voters in 2012 protest against an assisted suicide ballot question that was narrowly defeated.
Voters in 2012 protest against an assisted suicide ballot question that was narrowly defeated.

By Susan Bailey | Correspondent, The Catholic Free Press
“Be attentive.” This is the advice of Father James M. Boland, associate pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Westborough, with regards to any legislative action on end-of-life issues.
Father Boland is one of the newest members of the Witness for Life committee, a group founded in 2012 by Roger and Joyce Dubuque of Christ the King Parish, to campaign against a statewide ballot question on physician-assisted suicide. Since then the group has continued its educational efforts with forums, speakers and a website, www.witnessforlife.com.
Most recently Witness for Life started the St. Joseph Initiative in parishes, offering a brief presentation and brochures on the dangers of assisted suicide.
Currently two bills in the state Legislature seek to legalize physician-assisted suicide here. House bill H1194 and Senate bill S1225 are identical bills titled “an act relative to end of life options.” The bills propose allowing a terminally ill person to end his/her life by ingesting powerful medication prescribed by a doctor. Both bills have been referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health.
As part of the St. Joseph Initiative, Father Boland issued a warning: “So many of these legislative issues or ballot initiatives sneak up on us because they’re not well publicized. Keeping watch is a great first step.”
The question of allowing physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts is also expected to appear as a ballot question in 2018. The 2012 referendum was narrowly defeated, so supporters had to wait six years before they could propose it again.
The St. Joseph Initiative, named after the patron saint of a happy death, was launched in March, near the feast of St. Joseph, in response to legislative action. It is spearheaded by board member Kristine Correira, a physician assistant who has worked in the medical field for the last 24 years.
“Working most of that time in emergency medicine and now working in family medicine, I have seen first-hand many of these end-of-life issues,” Mrs. Correira said. “We know suicide advocates have listed Massachusetts as one of their top targets for legalization. I see this threat continuing to grow in our healthcare system and by society’s short-sighted acceptance of these ideas.”
Mrs. Correira describes the initiative as “one of many ways in which Witness for Life offers prayers, education and action around the end-of life issues of euthanasia, assisted suicide, MOLST (Massachusetts Orders for Life Sustaining Treatments), advance directives, and healthcare proxies.
“Our acceptance as a society of abortion has paved the way for assisted suicide and euthanasia,” she said.
The initiative provides a short script that parishioners can give to their pastors to read at the end of each weekend Mass. The script is supported by brochures which can be handed out after Mass or placed in bulletins.
“The brochure has information as to why assisted suicide is dangerous, a section that can be torn off and sent to legislators, as well as information about Witness for Life and all the work we do,” Mrs. Correira said. The script and brochure are available in English and Spanish.
On a recent weekend Father Boland incorporated the script into his homily.
“The primary focus was on doctors potentially shifting from a life-saving role to a compromised role that involved life-ending measures,” said Father Boland. “This significantly changes what we have all come to know doctors for: to do no harm.
“As a priest, in spite of my youth, I’ve seen many people terminally diagnosed who have beat the odds and lived significantly longer than anyone in the medical community anticipated.
“We recall in sacred Scripture that the Lord says, ‘Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.’ With great respect, that goes for doctors as well. No one is responsible for their own coming into existence and no one knows exactly when they’ll be called from this world.”
The St. Joseph Initiative has been eagerly embraced by parishes in the diocese. Presentations have been made at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish at Our Lady of Loreto Church, Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Paul Cathedral (all Spanish Masses), Blessed Sacrament, Christ the King, Our Lady of the Angels, Our Lady of Czestochowa and Our Lady of Lourdes all in Worcester. Other parishes involved include St. Joseph in Charlton, St. Mary in Shrewsbury, St. Anne in Southborough, St. Paul and St. Stanislaus in Warren, and Sacred Heart of Jesus in Webster. More parishes were visited during the month of May, which also has a St. Joseph connection, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
What can individuals do to help?
Mrs. Correira recommended beginning with prayer. “Turning yourself over to the Holy Spirit in contemplation, and letting yourself be led,” she said.
She then offered these practical suggestions:
• Learn the arguments against assisted suicide so you can inform others.
• Ask your pastor to participate in the St. Joseph Initiative.
• Write a letter to the editor or post information on social media.
• Organize eucharistic adoration to promote concern for human dignity in healthcare.
• Offer prayers for the sick who face end-of-life decisions and those who care for them.
“These seemingly small things, when done in large numbers by many people, become a manifestation of God’s glory,” she noted.
Diocesan efforts also include an annual Novena to St. Joseph at Christ the King Parish for nine consecutive Mondays starting in September to pray for the sick and to prevent the legalization of assisted suicide.
Mrs. Correira maintains that the public also needs to be vigilant about threats to human dignity from within the healthcare system that do not require legalization of assisted suicide.
“You will be asked about your wishes for certain medical interventions when you are admitted to the hospital. You might be asked to sign a MOLST form by your doctor. You might be asked by your lawyer about advance directives.
“If you or someone you love faces a serious medical condition, turn to your parish community for prayer and guidance through those very difficult decisions. Witness for Life will support people and communities in any way we can,” she said.
Father Boland urges the public to have courage. “So often, we allow ourselves to be intimidated into silence. As we see this Easter season in the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit can accomplish much good in the world if we are willing to be led. The apostles were not theologians by trade, but through time, with Christ and the gifts of the Spirit, they gave testimony to the farthest reaches of the ancient world. If we are open and courageous enough to let the Lord lead us, we may even surprise ourselves in what can be done.”