Catholic nurses in the Diocese of Cleveland are invited to become a part of a new organization: the Sodality of Catholic Nurses. Its purpose is to provide nurses with spiritual – not clinical – support, said Clarice DeJesus, founding president.
The Diocese of Cleveland Sodality of Catholic Nurses is the local affiliate of the National Association of Catholic Nurses. Its slogan is “United in the Divine Will.”
More than 50 people from the nursing profession – active, retired and student nurses – attended the inaugural Mass on May 10 at St. Thomas More Church in Brooklyn. Father Bill Bouhall, St. Thomas More pastor and spiritual director for the sodality, was the celebrant and homilist. A reception followed the liturgy.
The Mass took place during National Nurses’ Week, which was observed May 6-12. Father Bouhall used the St. Padre Pio chalice at the Mass.
“Don’t make this a job – it’s a vocation,” Father Bouhall told those gathered. He said Blessed Hanna Chrzanowska, a Polish lay Catholic nurse who is the group’s patron, lived by that creed. Father Bouhall said he gives seminarians and young priests the same advice when he speaks to them.
“When you deal with patients and soothe the dying, you make nursing a vocation. Blessed Hanna saw the face of Christ in the sick and suffering. That’s what nursing is all about,” Father Bouhall said. Blessed Hanna went to the sick, often making home visits. Father said she also worked with St. Pope John Paul II when he was a bishop and cardinal in their native Poland.
He reminded the nurses that sometimes nursing means helping a patient accept a difficult diagnosis. “When you see a patient crying and you go into the room and sit with them, that’s not a job. You are ministering to them.”
Blessed Hanna, in “A Nurse’s Examination of Conscience,” reinforced this when she said: “My job is not only my profession but also my vocation. I will comprehend this vocation if I enter into and make my own Christ’s words, ‘I did not come to be served but to serve.’”
Father Bouhall recalled the Gospel of St. Matthew: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”
The righteous asked, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you? And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
Father said Jesus asks us to do these things and that’s what nurses do daily. “That’s what your ministry is,” he added. “You take care of life – the greatest gift that God gives us.”
Nurses provide a healing presence for their patients, even those who are dying.
“We’re never really whole until we’re in the presence of God. How many people have you healed? How many have you helped make whole?” Father Bouhall asked. “Thank you on behalf of St. Thomas More Parish and our God, who is proud of you for your kindness, gentleness, love and compassion.”
During Mass, Father Bouhall commissioned the nurses and called those in attendance to come forward as he blessed their hands with sacred oil. He told them their physical bodies cannot be separated from their souls and asked that Christ’s healing ministry be with them as they “preach, teach and heal, which is God’s mission.”
He installed the founding officers at the end of Mass. DeJesus, a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Wickliffe, is president. Agnes Blazunas of Gesu Parish in University Heights is vice president; Joseph Bellian, also a Gesu parishioner, is secretary/treasurer; Mary Ojnik, of St. Mary Parish in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood, is in charge of spiritual outreach and Jaclene Zauszniewski, a St. Thomas More parishioner, is liaison to the spiritual director.
DeJesus said the sodality will meet at 1 p.m. the first Friday of the month at The Center for Pastoral Leadership, 28700 Euclid Ave., Wickliffe. Members are invited to come early and join the seminarians for 11:45 a.m. Mass. Some evening meetings are being considered in order to accommodate nurses working different shifts.
After realizing that a group for Catholic nurses did not exist within the diocese, DeJesus said she felt called to form one. It took time – a little more than a year -- patience and prayer, but things moved forward quickly. She connected with the leadership of the National Association of Catholic Nurses and found the group to be supportive.
“I was at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine (in Euclid) and saw a book about a nursing sodality,” she said, so she picked it up and read it. A sodality is a religious society consecrated to the Blessed Mother. That planted the seed. After talking with the national nursing organization, DeJesus said she learned she would need the blessing of the diocesan bishop.
“I came from work one day during Holy Week for adoration at the seminary (her nephew is a seminarian) and as I was getting into my car in the empty parking lot, a car pulled up next to me and parked. It was Bishop (Nelson) Perez. What are the chances that something like that would happen?” she asked.
They greeted each other and he noticed that she was a nurse. She briefly explained that she wanted to begin a sodality of Catholic nurses in the diocese and was hoping to get his blessing. The bishop told her to contact his office, which she did, and the initiative began moving forward. The president of the national organization happened to be passing through the area recently and called DeJesus. The two women met and continued planning for the new organization.
“It all happened so flawlessly. The Blessed Mother sent just what we needed and all the pieces came together,” DeJesus said.
Blessed Hanna was born in 1902 in Poland and died in 1973. She worked as a nurse and a nursing educator and is credited with beginning parish nursing in her parish after she retired.
In 1995, nurses from the Catholic Association of Nurses and Midwives submitted a request to Cardinal Franciszek Macharski to open Hanna’s canonization cause. The cardinal, who once referred to Blessed Hanna as the conscience of the nursing profession, agreed and her cause was opened formally on Nov. 3, 1998. It was the first time that a professional group petitioned the Church to canonize one of its members. On July 7, 2017, Pope Francis declared that a miracle attributed to the Venerable Servant of God had prepared the way for her beatification.
Her beatification ceremony took place on April 28, 2018, at the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy in Łagiewniki, Poland.