My father’s hands were some of the biggest hands I’ve ever seen – powerful, strong, worn, hardworking hands. My father’s hands were some of the biggest hands I’ve ever seen – giving, forgiving, caring hands that constantly reached out to others.
Last year Marcia Stout, one of DePaul’s nursing professors, invited me into her nursing class to encourage her students to think about nursing from spiritual and pastoral perspectives. From that invitation grew an opportunity to work with School of Nursing Director Dr. William Cody and other nursing faculty and staff to begin weaving a ritual of Blessing of the Hands into the fabric DePaul’s School of Nursing.
The rituals begin with nursing faculty and staff not only symbolically washing the hands of many students but also offering kind words of encouragement. With hands and hearts prepared, the students then stand with one of DePaul’s University Ministry staff who offer a blessing while anointing their hands with precious oils.
Last year Jewish students received a blessing from DePaul’s Jewish Life Coordinator. Daughter of Charity Sr. Katie Norris blessed the hands of Catholic students. Muslims received blessings from DePaul’s Muslim Chaplain. And as DePaul’s Protestant Chaplain, I was privileged to join my colleagues in blessing many. I don’t know if the hands I held and anointed with sweet myrrh belonged to students of my faith or of any faith. I don’t know if the students I was privileged to bless were rich or poor, ready to serve as nurses or not. None of that mattered. What mattered is that I was given a moment to hold and bless hands that were even bigger than my father’s hands.
To the bystander, the nursing students’ hands that were washed and blessed last year were just regular in size. But from my perspective, the hands I blessed were enormous. They were hands whose size was exaggerated by the hearts of those students whose path in life would require them to be constantly giving, forgiving and caring. The size of the hands I blessed was exaggerated by the passions of students preparing to be compassionate, patient, talented, healing nurses.
The hands of DePaul’s nursing students are enormous, not physiologically but spiritually—much will be required of them and much more will be given.
St. Vincent DePaul held the ministry of nursing in high esteem. He wrote, ”Now if there ever was a good work, it is that of nursing the sick, so much indeed that it surpasses all others in value. “
In recognition of the enormous work required of nurses and in appreciation of the great value of those called into nursing, DePaul’s School of Nursing has begun a tradition of blessing students’ hands. When DePaul’s president, Fr. Holtschneider was invited by Dr. Cody to join nursing students for the Second Annual Blessing of the Hands next week, Fr. Holtsneider responded: “This is a lovely new tradition.“
Indeed, this is a lovely tradition—a DePaul tradition—reserved for our nursing students who I believe have some of the biggest hands in the world—matched only by their large hearts! God bless all of our nursing students!
— Rev. Diane Dardon is a Chaplain with DePaul Christian Ministries. You can comment on her post below.
For more information on DePaul’s School of Nursing Blessing of the Hands scheduled for May 6, please contact Alexander Stachniak, ASTACHN1@depaul.edu.