By Marilyn Williams, MSHHA, MTS, BCC
At the annual NACC National Conference, the NACC recognizes a person whose work has supported, complemented, and significantly contributed to the advancement of the profession of chaplaincy. This year’s honoree was Bishop Dale Melczek, who served on the NACC Board of Directors as the episcopal liaison in 2000-07. During the presentation of the award, NACC chaplain and former Board member Bridget Deegan-Krause recalled that Bishop Melczek had been both “Martha and Mary” for the NACC.
Ms. Deegan-Krause noted that Bishop Melczek helped manage the details of leading the organization in a time of transition and advocated for the well-being of the ministry with his brother bishops as well as shared a vision for the future. Ms. Deegan-Krause added: “Many of us have commented how Bishop Dale challenged us time and again to go back to our roots, to attend closely to our ongoing formation as ministers and, very importantly, to embrace our ecclesial role, to enjoy, claim and take responsibility for it.”
She also noted that during his tenure on the NACC Board Bishop Melczek successfully guided the completion and acceptance of the USCCB’s document, “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord,” which in part was influenced by his interactions with the NACC membership. In concluding her introduction, Ms. Deegan-Krause congratulated Bishop Melczek, her “co-worker in the vineyard,” for this special honor, as well as the celebration of his 30 years as bishop, and 50 years as a priest.
In accepting the 2013 Outstanding Colleague Award, Bishop Melczek offered words of encouragement and food for thought to those of us who serve as healthcare chaplains.
In acknowledging the value and friendship he feels for the NACC and its members, he noted that an NACC member first of all is “one who is deeply rooted in prayer and thus readily recognizes the face of Jesus in those who are sick or dying; the face of Jesus in those suffering in mind, heart, body, or soul; the face of Jesus in their families and in other collaborators, such as doctors, nurses, and administrators in health care ministry.”
When he thinks of an NACC member, he noted, he thinks of “one who brings the presence and prayers of the church with a tender heart” as well as one who is “a highly committed person who has undergone the rigors of certification” and “values the importance of ongoing formation, education, and mutual support.” Bishop Melczek stated that because of his high regard for each NACC member and the association, “I treasure and am humbled by the distinction you bestow upon me tonight” and “thank you so very, very much.”
Bishop Melczek went on to reflect on the history of the NACC and its “enormous advantage and service to the bishops who have the responsibility for oversight of this vital ministry of the church.” In his view, the “NACC beautifully reflects the rich diversity of the church.”
In speaking of NACC’s diversity, he stated, “Some have been called to religious life. Some have been called to ordained ministry. Some have been called to marriage. Some have been called to the single life. However, each of you has recognized the call of God to one of the most significant ministries which the Catholic Church offers to the faithful in the name of Jesus Christ…. You sensed the God of love and compassion calling you to bring hope, healing, and meaning to people who are fragile, broken, and sick, perhaps as they are on the most important segment of their journey of life.”
In conclusion, Bishop Melczek said, “Thank you for responding to God’s call to be Christ for others. May you return to your ministry radiating with joy our risen Lord who is, indeed, kind and merciful! Thank you for bringing his love and healing to others in the name of the church.”
Marilyn Williams is director of pastoral care at St. Mary’s Health in Evansville, IN.
Read Bishop Melczek’s response here: Response by Bishop Dale Melczek, recipient of NACC’s Outstanding Colleague Award