NURSES AT THE PRESENTATION (EMILY BENSON PHOTO)
NURSES AT THE PRESENTATION (EMILY BENSON PHOTO)
On March 16, nurses and laypeople from parishes across the Albany Diocese gathered at St. Jude the Apostle parish in Wynantskill to attend this year's Nurse's Way of the Cross.

"It's so moving," said Johanna Flanigan, a parish trustee and coordinator of the event, which is sponsored by the Trinity Community Nursing Outreach program.

The presentation is a special take on the Stations of the Cross. The stations depict Jesus being condemned to death, journeying to Calvary, dying on the cross and rising three days later.

At each of the 14 stations of the Nurse's Way of the Cross, volunteers read a modern story about nursing. For example, at the fourth station -- Jesus meets His mother -- a woman described a young adult with cancer who is consoled by his mother in his hospital room.

At station 14, "Jesus is laid in the tomb," the story was about a young woman who does not want to attend the funeral of a friend who died from toxoplasmosis at age 26.

Bonnie Bazyk, a retired pediatric nurse and volunteer for the presentation, said it combined "my profession and faith." For Ann Lanone, a nurse who is from Christ Sun of Justice parish in Troy, the presentation resonated with her work. "To be in the [nursing] profession, you have to be a very caring person, and I think it's nice to have that bond with a patient," she said.

The idea for the Nurse's Way of the Cross was born from a meeting of parish nurses held at St. Mary's Hospital in Troy in 2013. Angela Sheehan, who was director of the faith community/parish nursing program at St. Mary's, had read the book "Prayer In Nursing" by Mary Elizabeth O'Brien, in which the author presented nursing stories like the Stations of the Cross. Mrs. Sheehan contacted the publisher of the book and got permission to use the stories.

The Nurse's Way of the Cross was presented at St. Mary's Hospital chapel by those in the parish nursing program until 2016, when St. Mary's merged with Samaritan Hospital. Mrs. Flanigan, another registered nurse, brought the program to St. Jude parish and expanded it, inviting nurses from other parishes.

Last week, after each station's story was read, Mrs. Flanigan followed it with a prayer. At the first station, where Jesus is condemned to death, the story was about a 16-year-old who woke up one morning unable to get out of bed. After medical tests, he learns he is going to die.

Mrs. Flanigan read a prayer to "help my patients embrace their physical condemnations" and asked Jesus to help nurses "stand as your loving presence with those condemned to death from illness or disease."

At the sixth station, where Veronica wipes the face of Jesus, the story described a homeless man brought into an emergency room, bloody and beaten. A nurse takes a towel and tenderly wipes his face. The man says, "God bless you."

Here, Mrs. Flanigan talked about how "we nurses have the precious gift of being able to comfort our patients, as Veronica comforted You in Your time of suffering."

"I knew it would be touching, and it was really beautiful," said Mary Jude Splann, a parishioner of Sacred Heart in Troy.

Mrs. Bazyk talked about her connection with the sixth station's story, saying, "As a nurse, do you know how many times you wash a patient's face?"

Mrs. Flanigan said that a nurse's faith is important, but nurses are often told to keep their faith separate from their work.

"[Nurses] never talk about praying with our patients, but it's so important," she said. "[The presentation] is about bringing praying into practice."

Mrs. Flanigan hopes to repeat the Nurse's Way of the Cross during Lent next year.

"It was very emotional, because you can relate to the stories," said Carol Tenzyk, a parishioner of St. Jude and volunteer for the presentation. "The Spirit was with us tonight."