By Mary Arnold, MAPT, BCC
Sister Jean deBlois, at the NACC National Conference in Milwaukee, called on chaplains to lead efforts in reconciliation within the workplace by helping to create a caring community.
Sister Jean deBlois, CSJ, told chaplains during her plenary
address that since caregiving is about affecting human
good and well-being, it must begin with creating and sus-
taining the caring community.
(Photo by Susanne Chawszczewski)
Speaking in a May 20 plenary address, Sister Jean deBlois, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet and past NACC board member, addressed chaplains on the theme, “Creating the Caring Community: Chaplains as Reconciling Presence.” In the midst of the fragmentation, chaos and isolation in so many areas of life in the world today, a caring community, in which caregivers are committed to the common good of all, has the ability to nurture and ground its members, and to enable them to work together to serve people in need, she declared.
Sister deBlois is professor of systematic theology and director of the Master of Arts in Health Care Mission Program at Aquinas Institute of Theology. She is a registered nurse who has worked in critical care with firefighters and paramedics.
The temptation of fragmentation and chaos is to turn away from others to protect one’s own interests, which can easily lead to conflict. This fractures the caregiving community, and works against the wholistic care we seek to provide for the people we serve, Sister deBlois said. Since caregiving is about affecting human good and well-being, it must begin with creating and sustaining the caring community.
This is not simply an ideal, she said, but a matter of justice rooted in the Catholic tradition of moral and social teaching. Sr. deBlois outlined three essential principles that propel the need to form the caring community. Each person has worth and dignity by virtue of being created in the image of God, which requires “giving what is due to those we serve and to those with whom we serve.”
The social nature of the human person draws humans to work together rather than working as individuals who think no collaboration with others is needed, she said. And, in the Christian understanding, justice and charity – understood as giving while seeking nothing in return – go together, she explained. “Creating the caregiving community is a way to create the common good,” that is, “the sum of the conditions necessary for the full flourishing of all members of the human community,” explained Sr. deBlois. This effort, through chaplains’ work as reconcilers, is important for those served by chaplains and for chaplains’ colleagues.
“Our character is significantly affected by the quality of the workplace community,” where such a large portion of time is spent, she said. The values of the workplace community, the personality traits that the community encourages, and the role models set forth for emulation, affect workers’ personalities and shape the quality of their community, she said. Sr. deBlois suggests that, as reconcilers, “we are called to witness to the virtues that are helpful to promote and sustain the community,” particularly solidarity and compassion.
Fundamental to the Catholic tradition is the conviction that every person is created in God’s image. Solidarity calls Catholics to see the goodness and potential in each person, and to commit to work for the good of all. The brokenness of others is relevant to individuals’ lives because we can only flourish in community, she said.
As reconcilers in the workplaces, compassion calls chaplains to “be in tune with the suffering, not just of patients and families, but of other caregivers,” to notice which caregivers are suffering, and to respond. In addition to compassionate presence and listening, this response may sometimes require speaking “truth to power.”
“Reconciliation involves more spirituality than strategy because it is first and foremost the work of God,” Sr. deBlois pointed out. Reconciliation begins with what God does for us, and depends on the awareness of God’s grace active in our lives. The work of reconciliation must be based on an ongoing, developing relationship with Christ.
Reconciliation is about “creating communion among persons,” restoring right relationships. It requires the same skills that a good chaplain already uses. Perhaps what is most challenging about creating the caring community is assisting members of the caregiving team to want reconciliation and to see that it is possible. We cannot heal like Jesus did, Sister deBlois noted, if the community of caregivers itself is broken and divided, and refuses to be healed.
God’s work is not complete yet, Sister deBlois noted. Chaplains, she said, are called to assist God in the work of re-establishing right relations by being a reconciling presence in our workplace.
Mary Arnold is a chaplain with Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Iowa.
Comment on this article