Members of a lay association in the diocese has taken on the special ministry of praying by the bedside of the sick and dying. Representatives from the group, "Disciples of Divine Mercy in the Holy Face of Jesus," recently appeared on the Eternal Word Television Network to talk about the ministry.
Kathleen Wabick is director and founder of the association. The organization meets once a month at the Catholic Center in Buffalo. The Disciples of Divine Mercy have prayed for people in need for the last 15 years and serve under the spiritual direction of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception in Stockbridge, Mass.
"We want to bring hope to the dying, hope of God's promise of His mercy through His son, Jesus, at the time of their death," Wabick said, explaining the ministry's main goal.
The Disciples of Divine Mercy focus on the message of Divine Mercy given to St. Faustina Kowalska. They visit people in hospice care and intensive care, praying at the bedsides of infants and seniors alike to offer support and prayer. Wabick has written a book, "At the Bedside of the Sick and Dying: A Guide for Parish Ministry, Family and Friends," with Bryan Thatcher, MD, founder of the Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy, also a lay ministry of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.
"In 1998, my mother passed away, but before she died, she was in a coma and we prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at her bedside," Wabick said. "She came out of her coma and had visions of heaven. She spoke for three hours, but she made sure we wrote everything down. She saw Our Lady. She saw Jesus in the room and Latin word above a doorway. She heard beautiful music she had never heard before. They had a long white robe for her - just amazing things she had seen that we knew had to be true."
In 1999, Wabick and 11 others started a prayer group that would pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for people who were dying. Members are from parishes throughout the diocese, but the ministry is based out of St. Bernadette Parish in Orchard Park. In 2001, they physically went to the bedside of a dying person for the first time. They initially contacted the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Boston, Mass., and started spiritual formation, remaining under their guidance for nine years. After this, the Marian Fathers took over their formation.
"There were 12 of us for many, many years and then, through prayer, I knew the Lord was asking me to open up this group to the diocese, so anyone who wanted to come and join our ministry could," Wabick said. "In the meantime, we were going all over the diocese praying at bedsides. We decided to take this on a diocesan level and start going into parishes to train them to start this ministry."
Today, the Disciples of Divine Mercy have engaged parishes in not only American dioceses outside of the Western New York area, but also in other countries, such as Belgium and New Zealand. The Disciples of Divine Mercy have contacted the international parishes via email.
Recently, Bishop Richard J. Malone has granted the organization status as a private organization of the faithful, and its home office is in the former St. Bernadette School in Orchard Park. There are currently 35 people in the group, with seven more people waiting to enter. People who join are first in an inquirer stage, where they take three months to decide if it is for them.
After this, the candidate begins a formation program with the rest of the group. The person stays at that level for a year and, after that year, the candidate becomes known as a servant, the last step before they are permitted to become a full member. The Marian Fathers believe that if the Disciples of Divine Mercy are to truly bring hope to the sick and dying, they must first work on their own spirituality.
"It's a very difficult ministry," Wabick said. "But if you feel that God has called you to this, then He will provide everything you need for this to be a success. Our main obligation is to grow in union with God, in order that we might be transformed into His image and likeness, because when we go to the bedside of the sick, we see the face of Christ in the sick person's soul and they see Christ in us. It's a mutual contemplation of the face of Christ in this ministry."
However difficult it may be for some, Wabick said the Disciples of Divine Mercy engage is a beautiful ministry.
"The pastors are all so busy, so they like the fact that this is under the teachings of the magisterium of the Church, which means Bishop Malone has approved of us and the Marian Fathers are guiding us," Wabick said. "We have two very strong organizations that are guiding us, which is such a blessing."