Call to chaplaincy followed work as physical therapist
Name: Kathy Ponce
Work: Chaplain at Presence Our Lady of the Resurrection in Chicago, IL
NACC member since: 1991
Volunteer service to NACC: conference chairperson/host for 2012 “Reconciling Journey;” plenary speakers’ chairperson for 2011 Conference, “Pathways to Healing;”
certification interviewer since 2000
Book on your nightstand: “The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People,” by Cathleen Falsani, and “Madame Pele: True Encounters with Hawaii’s Fire Goddess” – a gift from one of my sons, prompted by my having been accident-prone on long past and recent trips to the islands.
Book you recommend most often: Anne Lamott’s non-fiction books. I love her snarky observations and irreverent wisdom. “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting around for the rat to die.” “I didn’t need to understand the doctrine of the hypostatic union; I just needed to turn my life over to whoever came up with redwood trees.” “People need us, to mirror for them and for each other without distortion – not to look around and say ‘look at yourselves, you idiots,’ but to say ‘This is who we are.’” “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
I don’t recommend books for patients. They have enough on their plates without reading assignments from me. I do like many of the pamphlets in the “Care Notes” series, and the resources available for patients and families from many of the national and local associations that advocate for persons with specific illnesses or disabilities (a carryover from my P.T. years)
Favorite spiritual resources: “Weavings: a Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life,” and Taize prayer.
Favorite fun self-care activity: Frequent short vacations with my friends, especially the friends who seek out quirky destinations.
Favorite movie: So many films, so many genres, so little time – hard to choose! I like Woody Allen movies, and I’m particularly drawn to his documentary parody, “Zelig” – lots of less than decorous relevance to the chaplain formation process.
Favorite retreat spot: A cabin with a table that is filled to the edges with bread made with bacon fat, turkey hotdish, and jello, and the boat that is moored outside that cabin at a fishing camp in Northhome, MN, where I’ve spent a week with my sons, my late husband/their late father, and several close friends for a week each summer for the past 33 years. (We scattered a few of Jim’s ashes near his favorite fishing hot spot about six years ago.)
Personal mentor or role models: Florence Mahoney, a retired chaplain who has been an advocate for families who are dealing with mental illness in the Milwaukee community, and who has been a personal inspiration to me in her concern for all those who are marginalized or disenfranchised.
Why did you become a chaplain? I had worked as a physical therapist for 20 years when I became aware that some of my most effective moments with my inpatients were those informal times after they had finished with their exercises and I found myself staying with them as they explored the spiritual and emotional responses to their illnesses. I took a short leave of absence from my profession to experience a unit of CPE, and then I enrolled in seminary to follow a call to hospital chaplaincy.
What do you get from the NACC? The NACC is our representative in the larger Catholic healthcare community, and it provides a chance to network with chaplains on a formal and on an informal basis, to continue to share ideas in clinical practice, and to give and get support in a ministry that very often can be very challenging.
Why do you stay in the NACC? The NACC remains and continues to grow as a haven where Catholic still means “here comes everybody.”
Why do you volunteer? I have lots of reasons to be grateful for the path that’s led me to the present, and I think it’s important to pay it forward.
What volunteer activity has been most rewarding? In NACC, certification interview team work, standing in respectful wonder of the amazing resilience, at the enduring faith, trust, and hope in God, and at the ongoing personal growth that are a part of the life tapestries of so many of our applicants for board certification. Within my parish setting, my most rewarding volunteer activity is serving as a spiritual director for the past six years for a group that helps women to recognize that they are loved unconditionally by God.
What have you learned from volunteering? There are many chances to use and to continue to develop skills that might remain undiscovered if not for volunteer opportunities. Much of the world’s most important work would remain undone if it weren’t for volunteers. I’ve also realized that, contrary to the de-motivation poster, “None of Us is as Dumb as All of Us,” the wisdom of the group is usually greater than the sum of its parts. And very importantly, I’ve learned that the staff members at the NACC’s office in Milwaukee are delightful.