By Mary Monsen Kunze, MBA, MA
Now I understand what it means to have a “busman’s holiday,” because the NACC convergence in Pittsburgh this spring was a very rich holiday of joyfulness and synchronicity, a real chaplain’s holiday for me. It occurred a few weeks before my board certification interview on May 4.
Every table I ventured to during the NACC National Conference was not only welcoming but I would find myself seated right next to a person heavily involved in the certification process. These generous people shared their views about the process and gave me much needed courage to relax and enjoy the process. I had just begun working as a hospice chaplain and found the workshops sources of inspiration, especially the one talking about supporting a hospice interdisciplinary team with major ethical dilemmas, just my cup of tea as a bioethicist.
Just before I left for Pittsburgh, my manager asked me to serve on a committee to find ways to teach staff to talk about spirituality with patients, a bit of a pre-assessment which also helps with the bereavement planning for families. At the conference, I found a workshop specifically addressing this issue. I felt that I couldn’t be luckier to be there, and there on a generous NACC scholarship.
The icing on the cake was the honor of hearing plenary speaker Rev. Myles Sheehan talk about establishing a fresh new identity. His candor was riveting. The memorable days at the conference reminded me of the outrageous generosity of our Lord as he guides our vocation. I was so impressed by the rich diversity of the conference attendees.
It was fun to learn updated methods of guiding a group discussion by “calling the circle,” reminding me that there is so much more to learn about pausing to really listen and to bring clarity to issues in the discussion.
I have quickly learned that life is messy from my short time working with end-of-life cases here at the acute care hospice where I spend my days, but it was gratifying to hear seasoned chaplains talk about the grace-filled moments that accompany the messiness in our work.
As the newly board certified chaplains joined the procession to be recognized on that lovely Sunday morning in Pittsburgh. I was inspired to do all that I could to be among the new chaplains at next year’s meeting. It was also inspiring to be in the audience when the NACC Distinguished Service Award was given to Chaplain Karen Pugliese on Monday. One of her nominators wrote, “She models the quintessential Catholic woman professional. Karen excels as a professional while living out her roles of mother, grandmother, writer, speaker, teacher, ritual leader, deeply spiritual faith-filled woman, and friend.”
If Bostonians ask, “Where were you during the marathon bombing?” I will remember that I was at the NACC 2013 Business Meeting in Pittsburgh, stunned when the news spread through the huge assembly. We immediately prayed for all of those involved in the tragedy. The strength and comfort I felt being among like-minded fellow human beings that day will never be forgotten. Thank you to all that made it possible for me to be at the “Three Rivers Converging: A Call to Faith, Identity, and Action.”
Mary Monsen Kunze is chaplain at Aurora Zilber Hospice in Wauwatosa, WI.