In preparing for this first Vision column of 2012, I reviewed my prior columns of first issues in the four years since I became executive director in the fall of 2007. I was first struck by how readily accessible electronically these issues of Vision are now! Only the 2008 and 2009 issues were still in “pdf” format! What a blessing! (You can easily access back articles on the “Vision archives” section of our website: www.nacc.org/vision/backissues.asp)
David Lichter Secondly, I was struck by the themes of these issues: 2008 was Solutions to Charting, 2009 was Reaching Out to the Immigrant, 2010 was Small Workplace, Big Challenges, and 2011 was the Profession of Chaplaincy. These are still vital themes for our members. Thirdly, the topics of my columns were: 2008 – promoting the value of pastoral care. 2009 – our NACC 2009 goals, 2010 – the call to leadership within NACC, and 2011 – what characteristics make chaplaincy a profession.
The theme of this current issue on how spiritual care ministry in healthcare is responding to the needs of the poor parallels well the 2009 theme on Reaching Out to the Immigrant, as both focus our attention on those we serve, especially society’s marginalized. We realize how central this ministry is to our Catholic social teaching. Care of our most needy brothers and sisters is the challenge and hallmark of every Catholic healthcare entity.
This issue follows well the November-December 2011 Health Progress issue on “Embracing Our Cities,” whose articles explore the urban realities that confirm what research informs us about the close association between poor health and poverty and the disparities in health and healthcare access and service for minority and low-income groups, and how Catholic healthcare is responding to these needs. www.chausa.org/HP
In my 2010 column, I asserted the call for leadership within NACC, and invited members to embrace the many ways to exert their leadership on behalf of the other members of the association and our chaplaincy profession. As we head into 2012, the exercise of spiritual leadership in our ministry settings will be the theme and focus of several audio conferences, national conference workshops, and conference calls.
We all realize how vital spiritual care ministry is to our work settings. How prepared are we to exercise this leadership in its many forms? How do we discern our call to spiritual leadership? How do we provide this leadership on interdisciplinary care teams? How do we evidence the value and importance of this leadership through research, productivity tools, and quality measures? We will explore these and other themes of spiritual leadership throughout 2012. Please revisit two documents created by the Summit 2007 Task Force on Care Service on the Essential Functions of a Board Certified Chaplain and Spiritual Leadership Competencies for Pastoral Care (www.nacc.org/resources/documents.asp) that provide helpful guidance for us as we address this important topic.
In my 2011 column I explored the characteristics of a profession and how chaplaincy embodied them. As we head into 2012, our membership was unequivocal about what needs to be the primary agenda for the coming months and years – making a case for the value of the profession. So much of our 2012 effort will be devoted to this work. This agenda brings us back to my first January column in 2008 under the headline, “NACC works to promote the value of pastoral care.” The need for this work remains ongoing and urgent.
As we head together into 2012, I am deeply grateful for the many partners that are working with the NACC to promote the profession, including the Catholic Health Association and the many Catholic healthcare systems that have supported our NACC mission (www.nacc.org/advancing/partners.asp), the other spiritual care ministry associations both within the Spiritual Care Collaborative and those who met together in Atlanta Dec.7-8, 2011, to commit to working together to advance the profession (www.nacc.org/resources/e-news/nn_issue_110.asp#1), the graduate theological ministry programs that encourage students to pursue chaplaincy as a profession (for example, see www.msj.edu/agpim/), and the many Catholic ministry associations that promote national certification standards for lay ecclesial ministry (www.nalm.org/mc/page.do?sitePageId=70359). These and many other partners are working with the NACC to promote the profession.
As we begin 2012 together, our NACC mission statement, crafted and adopted in 2007, still serves us well: The National Association of Catholic Chaplains advocates for the profession of spiritual care and educates, certifies, and supports chaplains, clinical pastoral educators, and all members who continue the healing ministry of Jesus in the name of the Church.
Blessings on 2012,
David A. Lichter, D.Min.