Catholic nurses view their work as a vocation, a ministry of healing

Nurses discuss patient care at SSM Health St. Anthony’s Hospital in Oklahoma City in 2021 amid the coronavirus pandemic. (SNC photo by Nick Oxford/Reuters)

Nursing is more than a profession for Jamie Shephard, a licensed practical nurse in the Buffalo area.

On the contrary, Shephard’s nursing work is a way to live out her strong Catholic faith. When he and other nurses, doctors and medical professionals attend to patients, they extend Jesus’ care, love and compassion to those people, he said.

“(We) have the opportunity to step into the healing ministry of Jesus, to be a continuation of his healing presence in the world,” Shephard explained.

Catholic nurses, health professions are united by a common mission, professional organizations

Shepherd is not alone in this belief. In early August, he was one of more than 200 medics who traveled to Doylestown, Pennsylvania for the 2022 World Congress of Catholic Nurseswhich attracted participants from all over the world.

Held every four years, the World Congress is a gathering of members of the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medical-Social Assistants, known by the French acronym CICIAMS. Founded in 1933 in Lourdes, France, CICIAMS brings together various organizations of Catholic nurses and other health professionals from around the world and works closely with the Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, as well as the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. , and the Vatican Secretariat of State.

One of the member organizations of CICIAMS is the National Association of Catholic Nurses, USA, or NACN-USA, which hosted the Doylestown event at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. The World Congress of Catholic Nurses had not been held in the United States since 1990, according to Maria Arvonio, president-elect of NACN-USA

“All quadrants – Asia, Africa, Europe, Americas – are competing to host him. It is a great honor that the United States has been chosen to host him,” said Arvonio, who also served as vice -chair of the August event planning committee.

Cardinal Turkson: Catholic Nurses and Health Care Professionals Exercise a ‘Noble Ministry’

The theme for World Congress 2022 was “United in Mission. United in faith. Speakers at the three-day event included Immaculate Ilibagiza, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide who became an internationally renowned speaker and author, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Academy Pontifical Institute of Social Sciences of the Vatican.

In his remarks after the opening Mass of the congress Aug. 2, Cardinal Turkson urged Catholic nurses and medical professionals in attendance to come together to “support and strengthen one another in your profession.” The cardinal said the fragile and vulnerable nature of human beings provides opportunities for nurses and medical professionals to exercise a “noble ministry or profession.”

“These are people who have managed to transcend their vulnerabilities to be able to provide antidotes and solutions to those who are suffering,” Cardinal Turkson said.

The organization provides resources and a support system for Catholic nurses

Catholic nurses do this because they view nursing as a mission rather than a profession, noted Joanne Critelli, a Rochester nurse who is leading local efforts to create a Rochester chapter of NACN-USA.

“For us, nursing is not just a job. It is a ministry. You are the heart, the hands, the feet of Christ,” Critelli said.

Although neither Rochester nor Buffalo have designated NACN-USA chapters, Critelli and Shephard both belong to the organization as individual members, along with a handful of other local Catholic nurses. The NACN-USA website includes a wealth of resources for Catholic nurses who want to enrich their spirituality or learn more about church teachings regarding issues they might face in their work, Critelli said. .

“This is where nursing, ministry and Catholic mission meet. It is the voice of nurses in life and their nursing care, and support comes to them in their profession from the National Association of Catholic Nurses. You have to be supported somehow,” she said.

The support of fellow NACN-USA members has been invaluable, especially during the past few years of unprecedented challenges as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, Shephard said. Events such as the World Congress of Catholic Nurses and smaller NACN-USA events provide opportunities to build friendships with others who view their work in health care as a calling.

“You just meet people from all over the world and very quickly it becomes a family of faith,” Shephard explained. “We know we have brothers and sisters around the world who have become friends and are part of this family of faith who share in this great healing ministry of Jesus.”

Key words: Health

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