By Austine Duru, MDiv, MA, BCC
One of the greatest gifts that chaplains bring to their ministry is the gift of pastoral presence. This allows chaplains to offer an active listening ear to the story of the patient or individual they are ministering to, thus making it possible to listen and minister with intentionality and empathy. Mobile technology in ministry can, in some instances, appear to be antithetical to the idea of active listening presence; yet, the evolving use of mobile technology in ministry settings could be a valuable resource in the hands of a discerning chaplain. One example is the growing use by chaplains of mobile application software commonly known as “apps.”
I recall a couple of instances where the use of apps enhanced my ministry. In one instance, I was visiting the family of a patient who was dying. A few minutes into my visit, one of the patient’s daughters asked if I could pray with them; she wanted me to read Isaiah 43. The only Bible in the room was a New Testament Bible. On a second thought, I pulled out my mobile phone and opened my Bible app. I was able to incorporate the readings in my prayer with this family tailored to members’ needs without the distraction of looking for a Bible elsewhere on the unit.
In another instance, I was called to see a Catholic patient who had some questions about the saint of the day. She wanted to know about St. Margaret of Cortona, who is the patron saint of our hospital, and the nurses thought surely the chaplain would know. I had read a few things about the life of St. Margaret of Cortona, but I was not sure of all the relevant facts about her life, work, ministry, and death. Once again, I turned to my “Patron Saints” app and pulled up the story of St. Margaret. The story of the saint stirred a few memories for this patient and what followed was an intense discussion of some of the challenges the patient was facing and the similarities in the saint’s life story. It was an opportunity that reinforced my learning and helped provide useful ministry to this patient who felt it was important for her to know about the patron saint of our hospital.
I got more interested in apps that could be used in pastoral care after reading two significant articles on the topic in February 2011. One was Rev. David W. Fleenor’s “Smartphone Apps for Chaplains” published in
PlainViews, the publication of the New York-based Healthcare Chaplaincy. Another article was written by a former army chaplain, “The Best Catholic Apps” by Jack McLain, SJ, and was published in
America magazine. Since the publication of these articles, hundreds, if not thousands of new apps have been launched. It occurred to me that if the assessments of Rev. Fleenor and Rev. McLain were correct, many chaplains would by now have found mobile apps to be useful as a new tool in their ministries and daily lives. As a matter of curiosity, I decided to do a small informal survey of about two dozen chaplains to find out what apps they are using in their ministries and why. The response was quite interesting. I have compiled a list of some of the best apps that most of the chaplains identified and use consistently in different ministry settings. These apps run on a variety of platforms and can be used on mobile phones, tablets and iPads. Most can be downloaded for free, but some cost a small fee. When used appropriately, these mobile apps can be a good pocket-sized tool for continuing education, and can definitely enhance the chaplain’s ministry and faith life while keeping the chaplain informed and resource-connected.
Holy Bible: (Free) There are several Bible apps available for free. However, the majority favored the free “YouVersion” Bible by Life Church TV. This is available for free for android, iPhone and iPad. It is customizable to help you choose a Bible reading plan to fit your schedule and has lots of features including audio-bible for some select translations. There are more than 50 different translations available. play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sirma.mobile.bible.android
The Truth & Life Dramatized Audio New Testament Bible: (Free) This free app from EWTN features a $19.99 value dramatized audio Bible. It is unique, featuring award-winning and internationally-recognized actors. It brings the New Testament to life. This app comes with the Bible text and lots of other free features. Some of the hospice chaplains loved this app. It is also suitable for anyone working in acute care or geriatric care settings where listening to the Scripture rather than reading it is an option. It is also great for pediatrics units or for personal use. This is a good app to have when you do a lot of driving and enjoy listening to the Scripture or praying in your car. www.ewtnapps.com
Pastoral Care: ($19.99) This app by Concordia Publishing House has a selection of devotions and prayers for over 60 ministry situations. It also features prayers and a selection of Scripture readings, hymns and commentaries. Although this app could certainly use some improvement, it is one of a few apps dedicated to chaplains, ministers and caregiving for the sick. It is also a handy cheat-sheet (cheat-app) for any chaplain who might find it useful in unfamiliar situations. This is available for android and Apple devices. The $19.99 price tag could be a challenge though. play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.cph.pastoralcare
Divine Office: ($14.9) This offers both an audio and a text version of the public prayer of the Christian community – the Divine Office. It also features the readings of the day. This is popular among Catholic chaplains and is available in android, iPhone and iPad platforms. If you are on the go and don’t want to haul the four-volume, hard copy edition with you, it may be worth the $14.99 price tag. Compared to the cost of the hard copy, this price appears to be a huge bargain. But there are some free options, including the “iBreviary Pro,” “Catholic’s Companion” (for Windows Phone,) and “Laudate.” play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.surgeworks.divineoffice
Laudate: (Free) This provides a free alternative to the Divine Office. It has a sizable amount of great features for a free app. It comes with daily Mass readings, Liturgy of the Hours, New American Bible and Douay-Rheims Bible, rosary, stations of the cross, Divine Mercy prayers, prayers for various occasions, podcasts, and church documents such as the Catechism of the Church. It is also customizable; the user could add their favorite prayer to the app. It is available in several languages including, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Bahasa, and Polish. www.appbrain.com/app/com.aycka.apps.MassReadings.
Classical Music for Meditation: (Free) For those who enjoy a few minutes of relaxation and meditation, this free audio app by MonstersApp offers a selection of 16 suitable samples of classical music. The app is free and can be programmed to play in the background while you read from the Bible or just sit in prayer as the music washes over you. This is available in android and Apple platforms. play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.appmakr.app185914
Discerning Hearts: (Free) This app has been described by its developers as a “spiritual retreat stop for those who travel on the digital sea.” An app designed with Catholics and other Christians in mind, it offers a wide range of resources and links. Its features include prayers, teachings, blogs, podcasts, YouTube links, audio books, lives of the saints, and numerous video recordings on Christian spirituality from renowned and emerging Catholic scholars and speakers. It is a versatile app. play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.shoutem.n402965
A Year with the Church Fathers: (Free) An app by Tan Books that features excerpts from the book, A Year with the Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living, by Mike Aquilina. This app has a reading, a reflection, and a closing prayer for each day of the year. There are 365 entries to choose from. It offers a quick dose of daily reflection for those who are on a busy schedule. Like the wisdom it holds, this app is uniquely simple and user-friendly. play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sweetjordansoftware.churchfathers
PrayNow: ($8.99) This app by Concordia Publishing House is similar to “A Year with the Church Fathers.” The striking difference is that it features Scripture, psalms and readings arranged in Martins, Vespers and Compline. It also features a broader library of writings of church fathers, both Catholic and Lutheran. It has a feature for bookmarks and notes. It also has customizable font size, night mode, and other neat features. If you do not want to carry around the tried and true Treasury of Daily Prayers, this is a light and cheaper alternative. This app is available in android, iPhone, and iPad. play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.praynow
iMissal: ($4.99) This app features the third edition of the daily missal with the daily readings for Mass. It also offers Scripture verses for everyday use, in addition to the order of the Mass, videos of Mass, and a rich collection of Catholic prayers for various occasions. The app is available in ios (Apple), android, and Blackberry formats. A free alternative is the “Liturgical Calendar” (available only on android devices), which features the readings for the day, liturgical feasts, celebrations, and liturgical colors for each day. Also the “Lectio Divina” app is another free alternative for those who enjoy breaking open the word of God. It offers the readings of the day, Liturgy of the Hours and a list of saints for each day. www.imissal.com
3-Minute Retreat: ($0.99) If you enjoy prayer but have little time to pray you no longer have any excuse, thanks to this app from Loyola Press. This app takes you through a quick prayer arch using the Ignatian method in three short minutes (or more, if you wish). It features daily reflections with music and Scripture reading. It makes your prayer and Scripture reading effortless and helps keep you on track. A must-have for busy chaplains who wish to integrate prayer and ministry. www.loyolapress.com/3-minute-retreats-mobile-app.htm#sthash.hBTwVwht.6jYKfoV7.dpbs
Recordatio: ($1.99) This is a quintessential Catholic app. It is only available for iPhone and iPad platforms. It is a rich treasure of all the papal encyclicals from the last 50 years. It also includes numerous official church documents, such as the Vatican II documents, and Catholic social teachings. New updates feature the pastoral letter to Irish Catholics and Angelicanorum Coetibus on Anglicans who seek full communion with the church. www.appato.com/alberto-fraire/recordatio-catholic-documents-prayers
Mass Times: (Free) This app has saved my skin and sanity a number of times, especially around Ash Wednesday and other major church solemnities or days of obligation. On those occasions, we get calls from outside the hospital asking for Mass times or whether we are still distributing ashes, or if we are going to have an Easter vigil or Christmas vigil Mass at the hospital. Simply enter the caller’s zip code and this app will tell you where Masses will be celebrated close to the caller’s location. This app is also handy if you are travelling and want to know the parishes on your route and related Mass times. play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.catholic.masstime
Transforming Trauma: ($36.99) This app, by Sound True Inc., looks at the source of trauma as the beginning of the healing process. It combines contemplative and clinical practices to achieve healing of the whole body. It is a good resource for chaplains and therapists, and those who work in trauma situations. It is also a handy resource to help chaplains deal with the root causes of burn-out in their ministry and prevent work-related burn-out. play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.soundstrue.DA03650W
Learn to Meditate: (Free) This is an app that trains you how to meditate. This Buddhist-inspired app features meditation classes using various techniques, including meditating with mantra, breathing, music, focusing on an object, and concentration training. The classes run through five sessions that offer introductory training on the mechanics and meaning of good meditation. There are several meditation apps out there. Other free alternatives are the popular “Buddhist meditation” and “Dharma meditation trainer.” play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.org.HTMLViewerExample
Children in Grief: ($6.99) This app by Giese Communications ApS is designed with children (ages 2-11) in mind. Chaplains know breaking bad news is difficult, and breaking bad news to a child is more challenging. Sometimes chaplains are at a loss when grieving parents turn to them for advice on how to communicate about tragedy to their minor children. This app helps bridge that gap. It offers resources that can help parents in coping with a grieving child. It is also a good resource for the chaplain’s education on age-appropriate grieving interventions in ministry. play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.giesecommunications.childreningrief
The Art of Presence: ($36.99) This app by Sounds True Inc. explore the art of presence based on the work of Eckhart Tolle of Vancouver, BC, a renowned best-selling author, spiritual writer and inspirational speaker. This app offers an opportunity to deepen your self-awareness and listening skills. It is useful for chaplains and chaplain educators who want to hone and sharpen the fine art of pastoral presence. play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.soundstrue.DA03402W
Austine Duru, a member of NACC’s Editorial Advisory Panel and NACC’s Research Task Force, is staff chaplain at Franciscan St. Margaret Health in Dyer, IN. He is also adjunct professor of philosophy at Calumet College in Whiting, IN.