By Caterina Mako, ThM, BCC
The national NACC conferences are great. Once a year we chaplains get together for a few days and talk about what and how we do what we do. There is usually great energy around sharing our experiences and struggles. I often wished we could continue the interaction after we return to our institutions but I could not see myself setting up a Facebook page for chaplains. It felt too superficial.
Recently a good friend of mine told me about a site called Psychwire.org. This free Internet site looks to promote professional interface specifically in the area of mental health and the human experience. I decided to finally confront my complicated feelings about social media and investigate it. I found the site in Beta phase, which means it is still under construction, but I continued to follow the prompts on the site beginning with the orange button that invites people to “Sign up now.” Gradually I was able to set up a personal profile and create a Network for Spiritual Care Research and Practice.
I must admit there was some hand-holding by the technical team at Psychwire as we navigated the usual technical glitches of any new website combined with the limits of my outdated Windows software, but the outcome was more than worth the effort. I found Psychwire’s communications team very responsive as they are continually working on the feedback from the users. At this point the system does not work on Windows systems that are 12 years old or older. However, Psychwire does work using XP with Google Chrome or Firefox.
My goal is to build a network for us to come together in a professional context to share our experiences, resources, and ideas about effective pastoral care. It is important that good work, such as NACC member Robert Mundle’s work on embodied listening, finds its way into our daily consciousness in a quick and efficient manner. Social media is efficient at delivering information.
One of the best features of this site is that “one-click” files are collected for easy access and posting. For example, I found an interesting article titled “Engaging Transcendence in Clinical Relationships” (RMundle, 2011). I can copy and paste the link to the article on the Spiritual Care Research and Practice Network, and it instantly becomes available to everyone who joined the network. The site can locate research articles, documents, books, media, PowerPoints, protocols, etc.
I’ve added a few papers and books to the network that reflect my interest in spiritual pain. My hope is that chaplains join the site and add resources they have found useful or share personal interests in the area of pastoral care.
The site also has an excellent feature that facilitates “Closed Research Groups” that are invisible to everyone not involved in the research. It has the ability to organize files and data in a collective library. This makes it possible to collaborate easily on national and international research projects. I am imagining a cross-sectional study of spiritual pain, and this feature will facilitate easy collaboration with colleagues around the world.
The network has piqued some curiosity. I sent an email invitation to the chaplains on the New York State roster to join the site, and I am happy to say that there was a good response. Technical glitches aside, at last count we had 15 members.
Caterina Mako is director of chaplaincy at Catholic Health Services of Long Island in Melville, NY. To find out more about the network, go directly to Psychwire.org.