Archdiocese Local

Making sense of end-of-life decisions

by Kara Hansen

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Confused about what exactly an advance directive does? Not sure about what the Catholic Church has to say about end-of-life decisions? Looking for information to help your faith guide end-of-life decisions for family members?

The archdiocesan pro-life office is bringing an opportunity your way to help answer those questions and more.

On Feb. 10, Father Tad Pacholczyk, director of education and an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, will be making a presentation on end-of-life issues at St. Patrick Church in Kansas City, Kan. Dr. Austin Welsh, a geriatrics physician in the Kansas City area, will also speak. The event will be held from 7-9 p.m. in the church hall at 94th and State Ave.

Topics addressed will include advance directives planning documents, discussion of moral principles, nutrition and hydration, hospice, palliative care and assisted suicide.

A separate workshop is available from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Feb. 10 for priests and Catholic medical professionals. The presentation will be held in the Archbishop Keleher Conference Center at Savior Pastoral Center, 12601 Parallel Pkwy., Kansas City, Kan.

Topics to be addressed at the daytime workshop will be similar in scope, but with a deeper focus on morality and pastoral issues, as well as moral issues specifically confronting medical professionals. Those interested in attending the daytime workshop are asked to RSVP to Ron Kelsey, the archdiocesan pro-life consultant, by e-mail at:, or by call- ing (913) 647-0350 before Feb. 8. No RSVP is required for the evening presentation.

Father Pacholczyk (pronounced “pa-hole-check”) brings an impressive background in both science and Catholic morality to these issues. He holds a doctorate in neuroscience from Yale University, four undergraduate degrees — in molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, biochemistry and philosophy — and two degrees in advanced theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

The U.S. bishops, the Vatican, public policy makers, international organizations and hospitals regularly consult Father Pacholczyk in his role at the Catholic Bioethics Center, and he is considered one of the church’s leading spokesmen on life issues.

Though his credentials are definitely impressive, said Kelsey, Father Pacholczyk has the ability to make difficult concepts understandable.

“I’ve heard him speak at several places, and he is very down-to-earth and has the ability to communicate complex things in a simple way,” said Kelsey.

Kelsey said he has found that a great many Catholics are interested in the type of infor- mation being presented at this workshop. About a year ago, Kelsey wrote in a column for The Leaven about an end-of-life packet, entitled “Hope for the Journey,” that his office was making available. Kelsey said he has since received over 350 requests for the packet, which includes a power of attorney form and a Catholic end-of-life declaration form.

“I think it shows there is a tremendous amount of interest in this area and that this is an issue people are dealing with currently,” said Kelsey.


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Kara Hansen

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