Dear members and friends of NACN-Canada,

St. John Paul II, patron saint of NACN-Canada, launched the World Day of the Sick thirty years ago on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Its goal is to encourage the people of God, Catholic health care organizations, and civic leaders to increase their devotion and service to the sick and their families. This year’s theme, taken from Luke 6:36, is “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful, standing beside those who suffer on a path of mercy.” As Pope Francis writes in his message this year, God’s mercy embraces both strength and tenderness, fatherhood and motherhood; God continuously desires to give us new life in the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the model for those of us in health care. He wants to heal the sick; He responds quickly to their needs. This theme and Pope Francis’ message resonate for members of NACN-Canada for several reasons.

First, the Holy Father emphasizes the ongoing need to improve access to health care, including pastoral care. We are all aware that the pandemic has delayed access to non-emergency care so that hospital resources could be redirected to COVID care. We are also well aware that access to basics such as clean water, affordable food, and safe housing has long been needed in remote, rural and urban Canadian settings. In addition, access to culturally safe health care needs to be developed and improved for our First Nations, given the intergenerational effects of abuse in residential schools. The pandemic has also highlighted gaps in Canada’s care of the elderly.

Next, Pope Francis discusses the need for Christian disciples to provide excellent care and to be close to the sick. NACN-Canada now has the privilege of sharing with its members a moving first-person account of the importance of excellent care in the prevention of MRSA infection after orthopaedic surgery. The speaker also addresses the need for pastoral care when facing the possibility of imminent death as a Catholic. Nurses who are close to patients are ideally placed to help them find meaning in suffering, united to the suffering of Jesus. While pastoral care resources are usually available in hospitals, it is not always so in community settings. Pope Francis reminds us that the role of every baptised person is to provide closeness and pastoral care to the sick. This is especially urgent in Canada, where medically induced death is available to increasing numbers and categories of our ill, vulnerable, and disabled patients in hospitals and in their own homes. NACN-Canada will continue to engage in advocacy efforts with civic leaders to limit the expansion of medically induced death and to respect the rights of health care professionals’ freedom of conscience to respect life from conception to natural death.

Finally, NACN-Canada members have an affinity with this year’s theme of merciful love because we have established a practice of praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together on First Fridays at 3 p.m. In addition, we have started to learn about Blessed Hanna Chrzanowska and her examination of conscience for nurses. We intend to explore this document further as we begin a collaboration with the St. Monica Institute. I echo Pope Francis’ prayer, through the intercession of Mary, for the sick, their families, and the health care professionals who care for them.

Helen McGee,
RN MN President, NACN-Canada