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World nurses’ congress to focus on unity in mission, faith
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Allentown, Pa., Jul 28, 2021 / 19:01 pm (CNA).

Held every four years, the upcoming World Congress of Nurses comes at a providential time for many Catholic nurses around the world whose professional skills, families and faith have been sorely tested by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, taking place Aug. 2-4 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA, is open to “nurses (students included) front-liners, innovators, educators, researchers, and policy makers,” according to its overall sponsor, the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Nurse Practitioners, or CICIAMS (for the Comité International Catholique des Infirmières et Assistantes Médico-Sociales.)

“Our Congress days are filled with spiritual nourishment, inspiring speakers, and highlights of the amazing work that Catholic Nurses are accomplishing from the jungles of Malaysia to the streets of Poland and all points in between,” said registered nurse Janet Munday, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Catholic Nurses, USA, or NACN-USA, a CICIAMS member organization that is hosting this year’s gathering.

Reflecting NACN-USA’s mission to foster a network of nurses who can share their struggles, research, and best practices, the theme of this year’s congress is “United in Mission, United in Faith.”

“Nurses today need to have relationships with other nurses” so they ask each other about “those ethical situations” they commonly face while caring for sick and infirmed, Munday said.

Munday noted that a Catholic nurse’s faith can infuse all aspects of one’s professional life.

“We always like to elevate our nursing to be something related to the corporal works of mercy, the spiritual works of mercy, so it’s an elevation of our nursing practice aligned with our Catholic faith,” she said.

Munday said in the face of “widespread suffering” due to the pandemic “the love of Christ” has given many Catholic nurses the strength to continue under such extraordinary circumstances.

As Dr. Khosi R. Mthethwa, the President of CICIAMS, wrote on May 12, 2021 in a letter on the commemoration of the International Nurses and Midwives Year, “Although, we are different national groups facing different challenges, I have realized that the COVID-19 pandemic has united us in a special way.”  

At the same time, nurses face moral distress in an increasingly secularized culture. “The breakdown of the family is witnessed by school nurses,” Munday said. “The strain and pains of patients living with addiction and substance abuse is a heavy pack for behavioral health and emergency room nurses.  The lack of dignity toward life in all stages, also lays a heavy burden on nurses who answer the call to walk with others in their healthcare struggles and sufferings.” 

Pope Francis acknowledged these challenges in 2018 while speaking in the Vatican to members of the Federation of Professional Nursing Colleges, Health Assistants, and Child Wardens. He described those in the nursing profession as “promoters of the life and dignity of people.”

“The role of nurses in assisting the patient is truly irreplaceable,” the pope observed. “Like no other, the nurse has a direct and continuous relationship with patients, takes care of them every day, listens to their needs and comes into contact with their very body.”

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