In Pandemic, ‘Prayer is Just as Powerful as Action’

Marian Helper Marie Romagnano of Charlton, Massachusetts, founded Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy in the wake of 9/11. Now, in the face of another large-scale tragedy, Nurse Marie has been doing all she can to help prepare healthcare professionals to bring the graces of the Divine Mercy message and devotion to patients isolated in ICU units, all too often cut off from family, friends, and even clergy in their final moments.

What makes this pandemic a unique challenge for our healthcare professionals?

Before this pandemic, there was no healthcare professional in the world that was used to seeing five to 10 people a day die on their unit. I’ve been an intensive care nurse for years, and a catastrophic injury manager. I’m used to going into the ICUs, and I honestly thought I had seen it all, especially with the big health centers in Boston. None of us have seen anything like this before. We’re seeing unprecedented complications with this virus and the need for ventilators.  

What do Catholic healthcare professionals facing this pandemic need to know about how their faith can and should inform their work? 

Nurses and doctors need to realize their vocation is caring not only for the physical needs of the patient, but for their spiritual needs, especially when pastoral care is not available. The Lord has placed healthcare professionals at their bedside. Our responsibility in front of the Lord is to try to do everything possible to save these people, and at the same time, realize that these patients are in God’s hands.

Healthcare professionals need an awareness of how powerful prayer is. They have to call on the Lord Jesus and Our Lady to help them, because as Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, says, our presence at the bedside is the merciful presence of Jesus. We may be the last ones to have a chance to put a cross at the bedside so the patient can gain the plenary indulgence. We’re the last ones to say, “Jesus, I trust in You,” or recite the Act of Contrition within earshot of the patient. They may not be visibly responsive, but their hearing is usually the last sense to go. 

What do people need to know about this pandemic going forward?

We really need to follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines and what the local government administration is telling us to do. Be meticulous about washing your hands, not touching your face, social distancing, and wearing a mask in public because that not only protects you, but other people, as well. 

And we definitely need to pray. This cannot be overcome just by manpower. The healthcare professionals and all the national services are already overwhelmed. For me, not being able to go physically back on the ICU is heartbreaking. The only reason I’m not working is because I have giant cell arteritis. I’m immunosuppressed. I can’t go anywhere. But people have to recognize that prayer is just as powerful as action, when you’re not able to go there. We can’t physically go to the ICUs, but we can help in the ICUs with prayer.

What saints are you turning to in this pandemic?

Of course I’m praying to Jesus, the Divine Mercy, and to Our Lady, the Heavenly Nurse and Help of the Sick. And then, of course, St. Stanislaus Papczynski, the Founder of the Marians. His canonization miracle was healing Barbara Rudzik, who had her lungs shredded like these coronavirus patients have (see page 22). Saint Stanislaus is absolutely the saint for this. I’m also praying to the children of Fatima, Sts. Francisco and Jacinta, who died because of the Spanish flu pandemic, and Blessed Hanna Chrzanowska, RN, the first lay nurse to be beatified, specifically for healthcare professionals. 

How has Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy been responding to the pandemic?

We released a free digital edition of Nursing with the Hands of Jesus: A Guide to Nurses for Divine Mercy, the nurse’s manual I wrote with Fr. Kaz Chwalek, MIC, and Fr. Seraphim to promote nurses taking care of patients spiritually as well as physically. We want every single healthcare professional to have it in their hands. 

We also released a new Healthcare Spiritual Ministry Kit that includes a hard copy of Nursing with the Hands of Jesus, Rosary beads, a Miraculous Medal, a Divine Mercy pin, a Divine Mercy Chaplet prayer card, an emergency Divine Mercy prayer card, and a Blessed Hanna prayer card (visit ShopMercy.org/hpdm). 

Normally, healthcare professionals can rely on their hospital’s pastoral department to spiritually care for their patients. But with new protocols to help slow the spread of the virus, chaplains cannot always be present. So we’ve made these resources available to help healthcare professionals spiritually care for their patients.

—  Chris Sparks

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