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Nursing Students Take Part in Annual Blessing of the Hands

‘For it’s a nurse’s touch and kindness that patients remember.’

Dozens of Sacred Heart University nursing students gathered in SHU’s Chapel of the Holy Spirit recently to have their hands anointed at the school’s annual Blessing of the Hands Ceremony.

Friends, family and faculty packed the Chapel as they prepared to see the moving and meaningful tradition in which juniors’ hands are blessed, and seniors present them with the lab coats they will wear throughout their clinicals.

“It’s wonderful to look out there and see a sea of red,” said Mary Alice Donius, dean of the College of Nursing, as she stood at the Chapel’s pulpit before students who were dressed in their red scrubs. “It’s our hands that express our intentions of healing others. Think of all the things you’ll do with your hands.”

Shery Watson, associate dean of the College of Nursing, explained that the ceremony reaffirms to seniors that they are doing God’s work with their hands, and juniors’ hands are anointed so they can pass the blessing on to patients. “For it’s a nurse’s touch and kindness that patients remember,” Watson said.

University President John J. Petillo said he’s grateful for the successful traditions in which SHU participates, and he assured students their hands will be used in many ways throughout their studies and their careers. “Never lose sight of the simplest of gestures as you care for your patients,” he said.

Father Bruce Roby blessed the hands of the nursing faculty, and then pew after pew of students lined up to have their hands anointed by their faculty. At this point, senior nursing students put their lab coats on the junior nursing students.

Kerry Milner, associate nursing professor, spoke emotionally about the many ways the nursing students will use their hands throughout their careers. Milner said students will hold newborn babies, smooth bed sheets, rub patients’ backs, hold the hands of dying patients and so much more.

“This ceremony is designed to develop your spiritual well-being,” said Kim Foito, a clinical assistant professor. She instructed the juniors to write a letter to themselves. “Once you finish it, seal it,” Foito said. “We’ll return it to you at graduation. Take some time and search inside yourself at this moment.”


The College of Nursing hosted the annual Blessing of the Hands for nursing students in September.