The CMA's Annual Symposium was hosted by our Kent branch. "Opening the door of faith" embraced both the difficult questions to which we are asked to provide answers, as well as some really good discussions around living our faith as healthcare workers. The weekend was very  well  attended and we had really positive feedback about the meeting. The speakers included Neil  Addison from the St Thomas More Legal  Centre as well  as the pre-announced program   

Announcing the Year of Faith in  his encyclical “Porta Fidei” in 2011, Pope Benedict  reminded us that “Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us”. The Symposium took up this theme, and we started with Dr Mike Delaney, a London GP, who  spoke about  the key messages of Porta Fidei, which emphasized the  link between Faith Charity and Love as we seek to  live in the “Desert” of modern society  where  “No Belief” is almost a religion. The “Party Culture” has developed into a “Broken Society”, where in some ways the NHS had to “pick up the pieces”, rather than the Churches. As Catholic Health Workers, we are called to “Radiate the Word of Truth”, by our Care and Compassion. 

Robert Hardie followed with a masterful exposition on the work of St Francis as it applied to “Prayer in a Medical Life”. As a lay Franciscan, he learned to appreciate how all of Creation is to be venerated, we are all brothers: “Brother Sun & Sister Moon”, the “Divine Artist”. Prayer has the power to heal, more prayer gives more power; layers of prayer pass through petition, surrender, love of others, to being One with Jesus. He noted that one of our Patrons, St Elizabeth of Hungary, was a member of the 3rd Order of St Francis. St Francis was told to “Go and repair my House”. We have to try hard to become “Alter Christus”, “Another Christ”. The Church is always trying to balance the Holy with the profane, and we are the Church. 

Sister Siobhan O’Keefe, spoke movingly of the Care of people living with Dementia, taking us through her “Petals of Prayer”, with its alphabetical lay-out: “Ask and you will receive”, “Be not afraid”, “Christ yesterday, today & forever”. We need to be with our patients as they are now, caring for their basic needs, and keeping them as active as possible, helping them to keep living, using “old” memories to maintain activities, preventing agitation, by relieving symptoms and avoiding boredom. We must treat them Tenderly, and gain their Trust. They often pray a lot, and will remember the Hymns of their youth quite easily. 

We were delighted to  welcome Neil  Addison to  our conference.  Neil Addison is a barrister who works for Christians in trouble with the Law through the St Thomas More Legal Centre. He had been able to help students, nurses and doctors who had found difficulties following their consciences in matters of abortion, especially discussing the levels of “cooperation” we face. He quoted an interesting South African case where it was recognized that the State should not force people to go against their consciences, if at all possible.  

Fr. Tim Finegan gave us some examples of questions asked of him, usually concerning suffering, the devil, confession, sex before marriage, and contraception. He then  explored the ways in which  we can seek to  answer such  difficult questions. Are we the “condoning generation”, especially on Abortion? We must answer with simplicity and patience, being truthful & honest. Don’t “Win an argument & lose a Soul”. Fr Finegan emphasised how the Family is the bedrock of Society.  

Dr Josephine Treloar spoke of difficult pregnancies and how we can (and have) supported women thorough  those pregnancies. When scanning finds an abnormality, abortion will  so  often be the outcome,  even up to term. But despite that  there are still many mothers and families, with great courage, who prefer to keep their child, and we must provide the care and compassion needed. In such  circumstances, mothers who  are supported to  bring their child to  birth, even if it dies soon after, report very positively upon that  experience. For those whose babies die before birth  and are still  born,  there are still  real  benefits reported by  mother.  

There were also workshops and a beautiful  talk  on medical  aspects of miracles.  We saw case histories and X-rays of extraordinary  cures that  have occurred in Lourdes. 

There was much  to  deepen and strengthen our faith,  After our hectic day, we saw a little more clearly how we can bear witness to our Faith in our daily NHS work. Clearly this is not done by  “Preaching” the Gospel, but rather “Living” our faith, as Christ & St Francis show us.   

Along with excellent food, we even had a conference cake hand made by  a young delegate at  the conference! after a five course banquet,  we closed with night prayers retiring to  bed  with  many extra graces. We will  announce details of our 2014 annual  conference as soon as we have them.