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Celebrating Nurses this National Nursing Week

Posted : May-11-2023

The National Association of Catholic Nurses-Canada joined its international friends in honouring nurses at Nurses’ Week this year. We resumed in-person celebrations, inviting our members to host get-togethers for nurses in their parishes. This gave nurses in Toronto the chance to meet CICIAMS’ European regional president, Dr. Gosia Brykczynska, PhD, RN, OCV. (CICIAMS is the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medico-Social Assistants.) She is a retired nursing professor and officer for the Royal College of Nursing in England. 

Gosia is also the biographer of Blessed Hanna Chrzanowska. When I met her at the CICIAMS international congress of Catholic nurses in 2022, she kindly offered to visit Toronto on Blessed Hanna’s feast day, April 28, 2023. As a result of our collaboration with the St. Monica Institute, Gosia gave a talk about Blessed Hanna at the Newman Centre as part of the Faith and Reason lecture series. In addition, Gosia brought the two relics with her from Krakow, Poland at the request of Fr. Mark Kolosowski and Dr. Christopher De Bono of Unity Health. Special thanks to Fr. Matthew McCarthy, Vocations Director and Fr. Mark Kolosowski, Pastor, who received one relic and concelebrated Mass at St. John Henry Newman parish on April 27. We are also grateful to Frs. Boris Hemon and Christopher Huynh, CO, who concelebrated Mass on April 28 and received one of the relics in the chapel of St. Joseph’s Health Centre, part of Unity Health. Fr. Janusz Blazejak also welcomed Gosia at St. Casimir’s Parish on April 28, where she spoke in Polish about Blessed Hanna after the evening Mass. Nurses from St. Lawrence Parish, Scarborough met Gosia at lunch on April 29; another NACN-C member hosted a Nurses’ Week event at his parish in Lindsay, Ontario on May 8.

Blessed Hanna Chrzanowska was born in Warsaw in 1902 and died in 1972. After her basic nursing education in Poland, she travelled to Paris on a Rockefeller scholarship to study community nursing. She led a very busy life: she taught community nursing, helped to establish the Polish Nursing Association, edited a professional nursing journal, and developed legislation to regulate nursing in Poland. Blessed Hanna reflected on how she helped Christ to carry His cross through her nursing care. She saw nursing as her vocation and became a Benedictine Oblate of the Tyniec Abbey in the 1950s.

She organized relief services for refugees in Krakow during the Second World War, but the post-war Communist authorities forced her into early retirement because of her influence on Catholic nursing students. Then, in 1957, she developed a network of parish-based nurses and 300 volunteers in Krakow to support the chronically ill in their homes through nursing care and spiritual support. Pope St. John Paul II accompanied her on visits to the sick when he was known as Fr Karol Wojtyla, and in his memoirs, he attributed much of his understanding of human suffering and the work of nurses to Blessed Hanna’s activities. At our Annual General Meeting on June 1, 2023, we plan to add Blessed Hanna as one of NACN-Canada’s two patron saints, along with Pope St. John Paul II.

NACN-Canada is a member of CICIAMS, the international group of Catholic nurses. We encourage everyone to join (virtually) an event at the United Nations on Friday, May 12, when CICIAMS and Nurses with Global Impact present awards to outstanding nurses. Please sign in by 9:30 a.m. on Friday, May 12 for the 10 a.m. event through this link: No passcode is required.

Helen McGee is the President of the National Association of Catholic Nurses-Canada.