Importance of hands in healing celebrated at Notre Dame

Coordinator of the Counselling program on Notre Dame's Fremantle Campus,
Professor Martin Philpott, Mrs Maureen Colgan OAM, and Associate Professor
Dylan Korczynskyj at the Blessing of Hands ceremony.

02 May 2014

Recognising the importance of hands in the relief of pain, the prevention of disease, the comforting of the sick and as a symbol of peace and solidarity is a core focus of the annual Blessing of Hands ceremony on The University of Notre Dame Australia's Fremantle Campus.

Commencing on the Fremantle Campus in 2002, the Blessing of Hands ceremony was established to celebrate International Nurses Day. It enabled Notre Dame's Nursing students to join others from their profession around the world to commemorate Florence Nightingale and her contribution to the nursing vocation.

This tradition has developed to be a joint ceremony for students and staff from the Schools of Medicine, Nursing & Midwifery, Health Sciences, Physiotherapy and Arts & Sciences who gather to celebrate the symbolic importance of hands in the delivery of health care to the community.

Hosted by the School of Arts & Sciences on 16 April 2014, the ceremony saw students' hands blessed by Campus Chaplain, Fr Andrew Chen, and academic staff before embarking on their first practicum for the year.

This practice embraces the past tradition where the hands of kings, priests and prophets were anointed with oils – a symbol of health and strength.

Past Governor of the University, Mrs Maureen Colgan OAM, was this year's guest speaker. In January 2014, she was honoured with the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the community through a range of organisations.

"You've chosen to study these important vocations at one of the best Catholic universities in the world today. It was the goal of Notre Dame's founders that the important vocations of education and health care were delivered within a context of Catholic faith and values," Mrs Colgan said.

"Through today's Blessing of Hands ceremony, we recognise the importance of our hands as spiritual and physical elements of healing."

Master of Counselling student and daughter of Mrs Colgan, Philippa Colgan, said the event brought into context the holistic nature of her chosen career path.

"As a counselling student, our hands are a symbol of healing, suffering and psychological support in the pursuit of mental health and wellbeing," Philippa said.

Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, Fremantle, Associate Professor Dylan Korczynskyj, says the event is an important one on the University's calendar for students and staff to recognise the importance of hands in the delivery of education, care and support to others - something that is often taken for granted.

"This year, Notre Dame celebrates its 25th anniversary from its humble beginnings in this historic part of Fremantle, which adds further significance to the Blessing ceremony," Associate Professor Korczynskyj said.

"As a tradition that was first embraced by Nursing students from across the globe, it is wonderful to see how this event has grown to encourage students from diverse professions and vocations where their hands are the fundamental tools to help others; treating wounds, taking the pulse, offering support, or celebrating success."

Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093;