By Marilyn Williams, MSHHA, MTS, BCC
Karen Pugliese’s leadership and her many significant and lasting contributions to the professional ministry of chaplaincy and the advancement of the mission of NACC were recognized by the NACC at its 2013 Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. In presenting her with the 2013 NACC Distinguished Service Award, Rod Accardi, her colleague and first CPE supervisor, introduced Ms. Pugliese as “a woman of passion.”
Using the conference theme of three rivers converging, Mr. Accardi spoke of three passions he had experienced in Ms. Pugliese – passions that he said have significantly affected her ministry and leadership.
The “first river,” according to Accardi, is her passion for learning. He told of meeting Karen in 1981 when she applied for the first unit of CPE that Mr. Accardi was authorized to supervise independently. He recalled that her application stated she was a suburban housewife, mother of seven children, born and raised in the Bronx, NY, with a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theology. Accardi noted he discovered in his encounter with Karen a desire “to learn so much more.” He said that she had well-developed skills for ministry, but wanted to “deepen and expand those skills and competencies.” He went on to say that if the contemporary music of today were in his ears then, he would have written in the margins of her materials the title of Alicia Keys’ song, “This Girl Is on Fire!”
Mr. Accardi identified the “second river” as Karen’s passion for dialogue.
He reminisced about Karen’s first engagement with the NACC and how he experienced her passion for dialogue at the 1988 Minneapolis conference called Dialogue ’88, when the cognate groups came together for the first time. Mr. Accardi stated, “I had experienced her passion for dialogue in the pastoral encounter with patients,” but now he saw an extension of that passion in entering into dialogue with her colleagues in ministry. And it is this passion for dialogue that has informed her leadership and contributions in advancing the profession in relation to the NACC, APC, AAPC, ACPE, and NAJC, he said.
The “third river” is Ms. Pugliese’s passion for ritual. Mr. Accardi noted that she majored in English in college and has a love for words, but that in addition she has a deep passion for ritual – “the right ritual at the right time that is authentic to each individual and occasion.”
Bishop Dale Melczek, who accepted the NACC Distinguished Colleague Award the same evening as Ms. Pugliese received her award, spoke of her “passion for ministry,” noting that she brings to it “a tender heart and professionalism” and “embodies so well the qualities which we all strive to bring to our ministry of care.” He also stated that Ms. Pugliese “instinctively appreciates the value of collaboration.”
In beginning her acceptance speech, Ms. Pugliese also spoke about passion. “The fires of passion that each of the early women pioneers in the NACC held high helped to ignite the flames of my passion for this ministry of chaplaincy.” She went on to remark: “This vocation, this ministry, this profession caught my heart some 30 years ago. And still does – passion for possibilities in ministry, passion for professionalism in ministry, and passion for the power of effective partnerships for advancing our profession.”
She spoke of how passion comes from the Latin root, “patior,” meaning to suffer, and how “compassion,” the call to suffer with another, has sometimes broken her heart as well. She also spoke of her great gratitude to pursue these passions and to each person who worked with her in this pursuit. She especially noted her gratitude for all the “patients and their significant others who invited me into the intimacy and vulnerability of their pain and suffering” as well as for her healthcare colleagues and the NACC.
In giving thanks she noted that “we come closest to touching, entering, experiencing Divine Mystery when we are in relationship,” and that we are “somehow called by the very nature of our existence to discover meaning and purpose within the Mystery.” Ms. Pugliese went on to say that we have been blessed by “art, music, literature, and the wonders of nature” as the “symbolic guides to the process of discovery” of the true self. She concluded: “Gratitude, it has been said, is the alleluia to existence, the praise that thunders through the universe as tribute to the ongoing presence of God with us…even now. Thank you.”
Marilyn Williams is director of pastoral care at St. Mary’s Health in Evansville, IN.