Updates from the Divine Mercy Medicine, Bioethics, & Spirituality Conference

Register online here.

The 18th annual Divine Mercy Medicine, Bioethics, and Spirituality Conference is happening now on the grounds of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Organized by the Marian Fathers’ apostolate Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, the conference is a place where faith and reason meet and mutually enrich each other.

This year's theme is: Fortitude - A Virtue for Healthcare Professionals. Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. Catholic healthcare remains an integral part of the healthcare of this nation. Thus, there are unique challenges now and into the future that Catholic health care workers will face. Fortitude is needed where there are difficult options in healthcare, often resulting in moral distress.

Participants are present both virtually by livestream and in person, gathering more than 34 states and five countries. Healthcare professionals from across the spectrum of the field attended, drawn by the important formation in both spiritual care for their patients and in best practices in healthcare. Continuing Education Credits are available to conference participants.

The opening Mass was celebrated in the National Shrine by Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC. Father Kazhas been the Spiritual Director for the Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy since its inception in 2001. Commenting on the readings for the day, Fr. Kaz said, “These readings are almost case studies for both medical and pastoral care.” He held up Tobit as a model, a “a faithful man.” 

“He stretches himself for the people,” Fr. Kaz explained. Tobit’s solicitous care for his neighbors, his willingness to interrupt his daily life to come to their aid, showed the sort of merciful care that faithful, expert healthcare professionals should bring to bear in their daily work.

Brother John Luth, MIC, served as lector at Mass. He has more than 20 years' experience as a psychiatric nurse, and is also attending the conference.

Today's conference is all the more appropriate as Pope Francis is in the hospital today for surgery. We pray for the health and strength of the Holy Father, and for a speedy recovery.

Day 1: June 7, 2023

Marie Romagnano, MSN, RN, CCM-R, Founder of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, welcomes everyone. Nurse Marie is also Assistant Clinical Professor, Elms School of Nursing, College of Our Lady of the Elms, Director, Medical and Humanitarian Case Management Operations for Ukraine Relief. 
Our opening speaker is Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, BA, STB, STL (Cand.), Marian Fathers Provincial Emeritus, Author, and Editor. Father Kaz is speaking on "The Moral Virtue of Fortitude: Essential for Healthcare Professionals."

Drawing on Aristotle’s classic formulation of virtue, Fr. Kaz described true wisdom and encouraged his audience to incorporate wisdom, especially through the practice of virtue, into their healthcare work.

He discussed the many ways in which fortitude plays a role in the work of healthcare professionals, including advocating for patients’ rights, dealing with stressful and emotionally charged situations, and maintaining professionalism and expert care in the face of unexpected or extraordinarily demanding circumstances. 

The next speaker is a friend and collaborator with the Healthcare Professionals’ work in Ukraine: Kristin Robinson, Kansas City executive director, Project C.U.R.E./Franciscan Mission Warehouse. She spoke on "Project C.U.R.E.: War Response to the Medical and Humanitarian Needs in Ukraine."

She explained that Project C.U.R.E. was founded in 1987 to address the staggering shortage of medical resources around the world. Since its humble beginnings in a garage in Colorado, Project C.U.R.E. has become the world’s largest distributor of donated medical supplies, equipment, and services to doctors and nurses serving the sick and dying in more than 135 countries.

Kristin gave an overview of Project C.U.R.E’s collaboration with the Marian Fathers and several of their apostolates (Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy [EADM] and Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy) in getting medical supplies into Ukraine. Building off of a longstanding effort to get medical supplies into Ukraine, when Russia invaded, Project C.U.R.E. was uniquely prepared to respond. They prioritized trauma and disaster relief items, getting shipping containers across the ocean, pivoting to air freight to meet the new and growing needs of the people of Ukraine.

From 1985-2020, Sr. Andrea Kantner, OSF, founder of the Franciscan Mission Warehouse, and Dr. Bryan Thatcher, EADM founder, worked together to send containers around the world with medical and other supplies to people in need. In 2020, Franciscan Mission Warehouse merged with Project C.U.R.E.

“When the Ukraine war happened,” explained Kristin, “Dr. Thatcher called Sr. Andrea and asked what we could do together.” She introduced him to Kristin, and then Nurse Marie was drawn in, as well.

“Marie and I have been working together for the past year and a half,” said Kristin. “In the early days of the war, we were talking multiple times per day, and still going strong now, at least once a week.”

Using the global Congregation of Marian Fathers, the partnership began rushing supplies to those affected by the war, especially specialized medical supplies not easily sourced.

How to help
Please visit Marian.org/Ukraine to make a donation for Ukraine relief. One-hundred percent of funds received are sent directly to Ukraine and used to purchase humanitarian aid and medical supplies.

Please do not mail medical supplies to Ukraine! Instead, please contact the Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy: 1-877-380-0727 or e-mail ministry@sprynet.com for answers to any of your questions.

Because shipping via container is more cost effective, we prefer whatever monetary donations you can give rather than you sending medical supplies. Please know that boxes previously sent to the Marians or the EADM office were sent to Project C.U.R.E., and will be on future containers.

Today's keynote speaker is Dr. George Delgado, MD, F.A.A.F.P., innovator of Abortion Pill Reversal, Fellow, American Academy of Family, and President of the Steno Institute. He spoke on "Fortitude in Action: Bringing Abortion Pill Reversal to Those Seeking a Second Chance."

"A chemical abortion can be reversed," Dr. Delgado said. "We need to tell you about this so you can inform your peers and patients."

The abortion pill is the common name for a chemical abortion process that combines two medications. It is also referred to as medical abortion, self-managed abortion, or DIY abortion. After taking the first pill, some women regret their choice and want to reverse it. That's where Abortion Pill Reversal comes in, but time is of the essence. 

Using the natural hormone progesterone, medical professionals have been able to save 64-68% of pregnancies through Abortion Pill Reversal. "More than 4,500 people can testify that this is real science, not junk science," Dr. Delgado said. "It is very safe for women who have the opportunity."

"Word of mouth is so important in your sphere of influence," he concluded. "It is very important that we have a very loud voice heard."

Next, participants heard from Dr. Ronald Sobecks, professor, Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Taussig Cancer Institute of the Cleveland Clinic. He spoke on "Fortitude in the Practice of Hematology/Oncology in Patient Care."

Dr. Sobecks, author of Divine Mercy: Triumph Over Cancer (Marian Press), compared sin to clots in the blood, and explained the importance of virtue in light of how the body works.

Conversely, the Seven Deadly Sins are like the sort of wound through which a body would bleed out. Left untreated, this sort of uninhibited behavior is lethal.

Equilibrium in the body, like the balance of virtue, is necessary for health and life. 

Sister Inga Kvassayová, OLM, a member of St. Faustina Kowalska’s religious order, discussed “Eucharist: A Source of Healing for Patients.”

Sister Inga shared the story of a patient whom she got to know, whose joy and strength were mysterious. The sister recounted how she asked the patient where she would go when she went for a walk. The patient answered, “I go to Mass.”

Saint Faustina, similarly, drew much strength from Holy Communion (see, for example, Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 91, 1037, 1810-1811). “Who has the heart to deny the soul to be receiving the Lord, without whose strength she cannot go on?” asked Sr. Inga. Ensuring patients have access to the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, is an important part of our work as hands and feet of God in the world. 

The day concluded with a talk by The Most Rev. Robert McManus, DD, STD, Bishop of Worcester. He spoke on "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services," a document issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and periodically updated over the years. The directives are “concerned primarily with institutionally based Catholic health care services. They address the sponsors, trustees, administrators, chaplains, physicians, health care personnel, and patients or residents of these institutions and services.” 

Standing before an image of Bl. Hanna Chrzanowska, RN (1902-1973), Bishop McManus gave an overview of the principles underpinning the directives, discussing the consequences of the dictatorship of relativism dominating the intellectual world today, and presented the traditional Catholic view of marriage, sexuality, and care of human life and health.

The Bishop concluded by making the words of St. John Paul II his own:

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, in conclusion I exhort you, as men and women of science responsible for the dignity of the medical profession, to guard jealously the principle according to which the true task of medicine is "to cure if possible, always to care." 

As a pledge and support of this, your authentic humanitarian mission to give comfort and support to your suffering brothers and sisters, I remind you of the words of Jesus: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me" (Mt 25: 40) — Address, March 20, 2004

That's a wrap for Day 1! Follow Day 2 here.
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