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 The Diocesan Office of Respect Life and Pastoral Care continued in its efforts to raise awareness of the Catholic pastoral and theological approach to caring for the sick and dying with a conference, “Embracing Our Dying—Preparing for End of Life,” held at the Diocesan Pastoral Center on September 21.

 The Conference began with remarks from Father Stephen Porter, whose talk “The Theology of Suffering” addressed Church teaching on death and dying while emphasizing that mercy is the foundation of the pastoral approach to those in their end of life journey and their loved ones. He connected St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body with the call for the faithful to be “hands, voice and life for one another,” in caring for those at the end of their life.

 “If you’ve ever been with somebody at their last moment, it’s an enormous privilege,” Fr. Porter said.

 Following Fr. Porter was Dr. Larry Bogeln, who spoke on issues of palliative care, which is given to patients to provide them comfort in their final months, days and hours. Dr. Boggeln noted that much of the energy and resources in health care today is directed at prolonging life.

 “We need to look at this in a different way,” said Dr. Boggeln, Medical Director for Palliative Care Services at Temecula Valley Hospital. “We need to focus on quality of life and quality of death, seeing death as a natural part of life.”

 Dr. John Byrne followed with a talk on specific areas of Advance Care Planning. He covered Advanced Directives and Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST). A short panel discussion concluded the day with the three speakers joined by Deacon John Barna and Mary Huber, Director of the Respect Life and Pastoral Care for the Diocese.

 The Sept. 21 End of Life Conference supports the Whole Person Care Initiative, a statewide effort of the California Bishops, the Alliance of Catholic Health Care and the Institute for Human Caring, that seeks to raise awareness of palliative care options and general outreach for the sick and dying.