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From the Left: Dr. Kathleen Scoble, Gosia Brykczynska, Ph.D., RN, Dr. Harry Dumay, and Marie Romagnano, RN

First Lay Nurse to be Beatified

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From the Left: Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, Gosia Brykczynska, Ph.D., RN, Marie Romagnano, and Fr. Kaz Chwalek, MIC, Dr. Brykczynska visited the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy the day before she was to speak on Hanna Chrzanowska.

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Hanna Chrzanowska, RN will be beatified this April.

On April 5, 2018, Elms College hosted the first American lecture and the first American homily dedicated to Polish nurse Hanna Chrzanowska, RN, who will be beatified by the Catholic Church on April 28, 2018 — making her the first lay nurse in history to be beatified.

Author and nurse Gosia Brykczynska, Ph.D., RN, who wrote Chrzanowska's biography, brought Chrzanowska to life for the Elms community in the lecture. Chrzanowska's story is "well known in Polish circles, but less so in English circles," Brykczynska said – "But that will change," she added.

An inspiring story of faith and caring

Her story is an inspiration. Brykczynska's book, "Colours of Fire: Biography of Hanna Chrzanowska – A Wise and Compassionate Nurse," tells the story of the Polish nurse (1902-1973) who worked tirelessly during World War II to help the homeless and refugees in Kraków avoid mass hunger and outright starvation in the overcrowded city. After the war, she established and coordinated Catholic parish nursing in communist Poland.

Chrzanowska worked in schools of nursing in Poland for most of her professional life, serving as a qualified nursing instructor in the field of community nursing, and sets a strong example for today's generation of nurses and healthcare workers. Her Catholic faith, Brykczynska pointed out, grew steadily throughout her life until it became the foundation of her entire nursing practice.

Immediately following the lecture, Kathleen B. Scoble, Ed.D., M.Ed., MA, RN, dean of the School of Nursing at Elms College, asked Brykczynska what message she thought Chrzanowska would send to Elms nurses, if she were here today.

"I think she would tell them to continue their professional study – what we call continuing education – and never to forget that Christ is in the patient," Brykczynska said thoughtfully.

Brykczyńska herself, who lives in London, sets a powerful example for Elms students of all majors, having graduated with a humanities degree, Russian and Eastern European studies, with a specialty in Soviet medicine, and gone on to study medical anthropology and nursing, and then working in pediatric oncology nursing. She ultimately returned to work in the humanities field, obtaining her Ph.D. and teaching healthcare ethics. She has combined her interests and talents into a rewarding career of service to others, a goal that Elms College encourages for each of its students.

First American homily

Earlier that afternoon, in a Mass in the college's St. Joseph Chapel, Chaplain Fr. Mark Stelzer, Ph.D., delivered a homily that incorporated insights from Chrzanowska's life.

"To read Hanna's biography is to glean insight into a woman who walked unassumingly with Jesus throughout lives and finally came to recognize Him fully in brokenness: in Hannah' case, in the brokenness of a people decimated by the horrors of war," Stelzer said.

"As the Church prepares to celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy this coming Sunday," he continued, "Hanna Chrzanowska reminds us what it is to see our world and those around us with God's eyes.  She reminds us what it is to see our world and those around us with eyes of mercy."

To read Fr. Mark's full homily, click here.

Representing Elms College at the beatification ceremony

Chrzanowska's beatification on April 28 will take place at the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Krakow-Łagiewniki, Poland, and it will be televised on Polish TV -- and, what's more, an Elms College master of science in nursing student will be on hand to attend the ceremony.

Marie Romagnano, RN, BSN, CRC, CCM, CLCP, is a student in the nursing education track of the MSN program at Elms. A longtime nurse who specializes in catastrophic-injury care, she also is the founder and president of Med-Link Inc. In 2001, she founded Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, a professional organization that focuses on training nurses in spiritual care of patients. She has written the training manual "Nursing with the Hands of Jesus: A Guide to Nurses for Divine Mercy," a training guidebook for nurses and those in direct contact in any setting with the sick, injured, and dying.

Romagnano said she has found a sister in Chrzanowska. "In the sisterhood of nursing, we're all sisters," she said, "but her deep spirituality — I would hope to have that kind of depth someday."

"This is the most personal and one of the biggest events in my whole life," she continued. "To be able to witness another nurse who believed in the spiritual care of the patient, who believed in incorporating her personal faith with the care of the patient — I am so excited."

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