Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer
February 23, 2024 // Bishop

Bishop Implores Nursing Students to Fully Live Their Faith

Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer

Just before the Liturgy of the Word, incense being used in the Holy Spirit Chapel at LeMans Hall at Saint Mary’s College triggered loud smoke alarms, emptying the dorm of its occupants, including Bishop Rhoades, who was celebrating the Mass on Friday, February 16. Members of the Catholic Nurses Association (CNA) had begun meeting this academic year, but Mass and a special blessing from the local bishop was their first major event. It turned out to be more memorable than anticipated.

Bishop Rhoades warmly thanked Rick Becker, club sponsor, for inviting him and said he was delighted to be able to pray with the nursing students. He began his homily by sharing the important role of nurses in his own life, including the encouragement of a nurse during therapy after a heart procedure, as well as his sister, “who’s always after me about taking care of my health.” He also expressed the highest esteem for his aunt, a “classic” nurse who raised money and served as chief nurse for a pilgrimage to Lourdes. “She was a model of self-giving love for the sick,” Bishop Rhoades testified. He also recalled that he himself worked as an orderly in a nursing home more than one summer as a high school and college student.

Bishop Rhoades poses with members of the Catholic Nurses Association following a Mass on the campus of Saint Mary’s College on Friday, February 16.

Beginning with Jesus’ healing ministry, the Catholic Church has always taken a leading role in health care, Bishop Rhoades said. “In the United States, the Church has been renowned for its health care ministry, with religious sisters – including the Sisters of the Holy Cross – founding hospitals, serving especially the poor and disadvantaged, and serving in times of great need, like the Civil War. All this was motivated by their faith, not separated from their faith.” Bishop Rhoades urged the students fully to integrate their lives of faith with their calling to be nurses, despite the current threats to conscientious health care workers posed by a culture that promotes abortion and euthanasia. He quoted a Catholic nurse and bioethicist who said: “We won’t kill you, even if you ask us to. We won’t kill your unborn child, even if you ask us to. We won’t mutilate you or destroy normal, healthy functions, even if you ask us to.”

He pointed out that nurses’ direct relationship with their patients provides a channel to administer not only medicines and procedures but also courage, hope, and trust. “You show your patients the closeness of God the Father by the tenderness you show them,” he said.

The previous evening, Bishop Rhoades had spoken to Notre Dame law and MBA students about being “tender, strong, and true,” in the words of the Notre Dame alma mater. That description certainly applies to nurses. “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of tenderness in the nursing profession,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Here at Saint Mary’s, you have the greatest model of tenderness: your patroness, the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

Before offering a special blessing for nursing students and other health care workers, Bishop Rhoades concluded: “All the lay faithful are called to work in the vineyard of the Lord. Your particular area of the vineyard is the care of the sick, the suffering, the disabled, and the dying. When you finish your studies, you will be going into that vineyard. I encourage you to develop a good prayer life, to actively participate in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, so that you will not be living a double life, and your life as a nurse will not be separated from your life as a Catholic.”

Saint Mary’s senior Molly Martis, President of the Catholic Nurses Association, began the Mass with a word of welcome. When Bishop Rhoades found out she was a senior, he invited her to come work at St. Anne Communities. Martis said: “CNA is working to foster an environment in which [Saint Mary’s College] students can build upon the foundation of the Catholic faith as we prepare for a lifetime vocation of care for the sick and suffering. Our focus is on bringing Christ’s love to others in the context of nursing. We also strive to embody the examples of the saints and the legacy of the Sisters of the Holy Cross as we become professionals in the health care field. We hope to strengthen fellowship, promote positive patient outcomes, and pursue the common good through our mission.” Club members have discussed reflecting on the lives of the saints, community service events, guest speakers, and prayer opportunities. “It is such an honor to celebrate the Eucharist with Bishop Rhoades,” she added.

On a more personal note, Martis said: “My interest in nursing has grown out of my faith because I see it as a vocation in which I can show Christ’s love to others. As a health care professional, I strive to uphold human dignity and provide compassionate care for the mind, body, and spirit of those I encounter.”

At a reception after Mass, Bishop Rhoades had further opportunity to interact informally with nursing students and other Mass attendees.

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