National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

That the World May Know the Divine Mercy

Three groups get the word out

BY JOSEPH PRONECHEN

April 23-29, 2006 Issue | Posted 4/24/06 at 10:00 AM

 

It was as recently as the 1930s that an apparition revealed to Sister Faustina Kowalska the devotion of the Divine Mercy.

He told her he wanted this observance proclaimed and practiced throughout the world.

How in the world was a humble, cloistered nun in Poland to bring that about? By trusting, surrendering, believing, keeping a journal — and leaving the rest to God.

Fast-forward to the Jubilee Year 2000. Pope John Paul II canonizes St. Faustina, making her the first saint of the new millennium.

“It is important … that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter,” he said, “which from now on throughout the Church will be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’”

Today, not only do many ordinary folks observe the Divine Mercy, immersing themselves in the ocean of graces Jesus promised through it, but they also pick up where St. Faustina and Pope John Paul left off — doing their part to help spread the devotion around the world.

One is Robert Allard. Away from the Church 25 years, he returned to Mass and was led to read Divine Mercy in My Soul, St. Faustina’s now-famous diary. While celebrating his first Divine Mercy Sunday, Allard felt called to help others recognize what a great treasure was theirs for the asking.

“A lot of people consider it a party for devotees, but Jesus said the ‘Feast of Mercy’ is a refuge for sinners,” Allard explains. “Divine Mercy is supposed to be celebrated at every Mass. The emphasis is to be on restoring fainting or lukewarm souls.”

Getting his pastor at St. Lucie’s in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., to celebrate the feast was only the beginning. Allard also founded the Apostles of Divine Mercy and the Knights of Divine Mercy to promote the message and devotion.

By 2003, his website, divinemercysunday.com, was carrying detailed yet simple articles explaining the how-tos and benefits of the Divine Mercy devotion. It also offers programs to help pastors institute the feast in their parishes and teach others to become Apostles and Knights of Divine Mercy.

Allard also contacted Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus (of which Allard was a member), who agreed that the group ought to be doing more to promote the Divine Mercy.

Allard believes the Feast of Divine Mercy is one of the best dates on the liturgical calendar to bring fallen-away Catholics “back home.” People respond, he says, to the feast’s promise of a plenary indulgence: complete forgiveness of sins and the punishment they would otherwise bring on.

Says Allard: “We’ve been asking priests to tell people, with charity, that now is the time to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Mercy Heals

In Massachusetts, trauma nurse Marie Romagnano began incorporating the Divine Mercy message in her practice in 1984, after learning about it while volunteering at the Marian Helpers Center and National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge.

A turning point came with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Heading a nursing group ready to leave for ground zero, she got a cancellation call from the Red Cross: There were very few survivors.

“I realized we could be spiritual nurses,” Romagnano remembers thinking. “I knew we could use the Divine Mercy chaplet and devotion. This was an incredible opportunity to spread God’s mercy.”

That realization inspired her to establish and direct Nurses for Divine Mercy (nursesfordivinemercy.org) to teach healthcare workers how to bring spiritual care to the sick, injured, dying and their families.

The idea took hold with nurses across the country so rapidly that Romagnano wrote a practical guidebook, Nursing With the Hands of Jesus: a Guide to Nurses for Divine Mercy (Marian Helpers, 2004). She put together this emergency spiritual care plan with help from Marians of the Immaculate Conception Fathers Seraphim Michalenko, postulator for the canonization of St. Faustina, and Father Kazimiercz Chwalek. 

It took less than a year for the book’s first print run, some 10,000 copies, to sell out. It’s now in its second run.

“It’s so important nurses at the bedside realize their vital role in cooperating with Divine Mercy that Our Lord gave us,” explains Romagnano. “We become the merciful presence of Jesus at the bedside.”

“The nurse’s first priority is to make sure the patient receives the sacrament[s],” she adds. “The second is teaching the family and patient the Divine Mercy message and the chaplet, and handing them the image.”

She finds the small image of the Divine Mercy nurses pin to their uniforms becomes a beautiful way to introduce God into the conversation and focus on the merciful Lord when patients and family ask about it.

Today there are more than 3,000 Nurses for Divine Mercy in the United States, and they’re spreading from Ireland to Poland, as well as in India and Nigeria. Major hospitals, including the University of MassachusettsMedical Center in Boston, are starting in-service training; a Doctors for Divine Mercy division is forming there as well.

Romagnano expects hundreds of nurses and health workers nationwide to attend this year’s annual Divine Mercy Conference for Medical Professionals, to be held April 26-27 in Worcester, Mass.

She wants them to realize what Father Michalenko told her: “We become the merciful presence of Jesus at the bedside.”

Roadside Revelations

Meanwhile, in Cleveland, 1996 was the year Joe Cannon got the idea to have a picture of Jesus as the Divine Mercy painted for a Marian conference. Not just any picture. This one was 32 feet by 16 feet.

He even got the city’s permission to put the three-story-high picture in the public square. And it was the right size for the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“People were chanting ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus’ all the way down the street,” he recalls happily about the next parade, this one in Chicago. That was all he needed.

Cannon took this Divine Mercy image, blessed by his pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Cleveland, to 50 parades and events from Savannah to San Francisco, from Phoenix to Pittsburgh to Battery Park in New York City.

The Divine Mercy image became a familiar sight in seven appearances at the annual Right to Life March in Washington, D.C.

Then, in 1999, Cannon put up his first billboard — allowing Jesus, the Divine Mercy, to reach countless motorists and pedestrians.

Since then he has placed the image on more than 400 billboards in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Idaho. Hundreds have visited his website (divinemercybillboards.net) or called his toll-free number, (888) 479-3030.

“I remember some people saying, Thank you, because I prayed the chaplet today and I haven’t prayed in years,” Cannon says. “I find a hunger for Jesus Christ out there.”

See what you started, St. Faustina?

Joseph Pronechen writes from

Trumbull, Connecticut.