Friday, May 19, 2006

BANGALORE: JY Nurses Conference 2006

Bangalore: Jesus Youth (JY) Nurses Conference 2006

May 18, 2006

Catholic Nurses Vow To Resist Pressure To Assist In Abortion

BANGALORE, India (UCAN) -- When 1,400 young Catholic nurses gathered for the first time at a national Catholic convention in India, they found strength in numbers to stand against abortion and any other practices against Catholic ethics.

"Called to be His Healing Hands" was the theme of the three-day convention that ended May 14 in Bangalore, capital of Karnataka state, 2,060 kilometers south of New Delhi.

Jesus Youth, a movement that promotes a Catholic lifestyle among youths in the face of modern-day challenges, brought together the young professionals, who mostly work in secular institutions.

In hospitals, nurses are forced to assist in abortions, according to Siji K. Mathew, Karnataka coordinator of the movement among nurses, who said the convention focused on the "strong pro-life stand" Catholic nurses should take in such situations.

"Some of us had to resign our jobs when we were pressured by the management to assist in abortion procedures," Mathew told UCA News, emphasizing the need for "spiritual strength" to withstand such pressure.

At the convention, the nurses recited a special prayer for the unborn child, and promised to propagate the concept of spiritually adopting such children.

"Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I beg you to spare the life of the unborn baby that I have spiritually adopted and who is in danger of being aborted," they prayed together, as they also resolved to conscientize couples against abortion.

Nurses at the convention unanimously vowed not to be involved in any breach of medical ethics or bow to pressure from doctors or management to take part in any practices or procedures that violate their conscience, she reported.

They also unanimously agreed to fight abortion and to act as "counselors" to women or couples who come for abortions.

Catholic nurses joined the Jesus Youth movement in 1995, 10 years after its inception in Kerala, the state just south of Karnataka. Currently, the nurses have their own units in most schools of nursing across India, said Mathew, who works as a tutor at a nursing school in Bangalore.

Nurses of Kerala met together for the first time in 1997. Mathew said one of the proposals emerging from that meeting, which about 1,200 nurses attended, was to hold a national convention focusing on faith formation for nurses.

Speakers at the Bangalore convention pointed out that for Catholic nurses, nursing is a form of mission.

Retired Archbishop Ignatius Paul Pinto, previous archbishop of Bangalore, had sounded this note in his opening remarks, when he reminded the nurses that they are "specially called servants in the healing ministry of Jesus." Each nurse has to be "an evangelizer and missionary," he said, asking them not to view their profession as "a career, but always see it as mission."

His predecessor, retired Archbishop Alphonsus Mathias, carried the theme through to the concluding Mass, which he celebrated. He encouraged the nurses to be the "hands" of Christ and to serve the sick as "angels of God."

Several convention participants told UCA News their attitude toward their job changed after joining the Jesus Youth movement.

Reena Rodrigues, a delegate from the western city of Mumbai, said she now sees her job as a "specialized vocation to serve God" and herself as "an instrument in the healing ministry of the Church." This outlook helps her "never to get involved in any activity that destroys life," she added.

Shinto Chacko, a male nurse, said he realized the nobility of the nursing profession after joining the movement. "It is a life-giving profession and not a life-taking profession," he said.

Mathew observed that in several schools of nursing and medical facilities with commercial motives that have appeared in India, nurses are reduced to being part of a moneymaking system. Catholic nurses hardly have any "faith formation" programs in those institutions, she said, underlining the need for more conventions like the one in Bangalore.

The nursing tutor and Jesus Youth activist also pointed out that while most students nursing schools in Karnataka are Christians, people of other religions manage more than 90 percent of these schools.

Bangalore alone has nearly 200 nursing schools with an estimated 5,000 students. "Where is the scope for spiritual and faith formation for such a large crowd who are in the hands of non-Christian management?" she asked.

Carmelite Father Antony Puthenangady, who counsels nurses, confirmed to UCA News that he too sees the absence of faith formation as a major problem, and that Jesus Youth and other Church movements help to provide such formation. He added that school managements do not oppose prayer programs among nurses, since they find that these help instill discipline among students and staff.



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