Plenary speakers will be theologian, social scientist, ethicist and health executive
By Peg McGonigal, BCC, and Father Jack Crabb, SJ
Say “St. Louis,” and the iconic gateway arch comes to mind. Built to honor Thomas Jefferson and all of the pioneers who dared to consider the opportunities as the young nation expanded, the arch signifies that St. Louis is the gateway to the West. How fitting then, the 2014 NACC National Conference gathers on the same banks of opportunity and promise to pioneer a shared vision through the “Gateway to Compassionate Leadership.”
Like the pioneers who sought new opportunities in the West, professional chaplaincy must consider the expansion of ministry in new settings to meet new needs – all with the skills found in compassionate leadership. The Conference Planning Task Force identified four pathways of such a leadership: we begin from a renewed spirit, consider ministry in new settings, with new partners, through new services. These pathways are as much about being strategic as they are about being compassionate.
To this end, the task force has enlisted the expertise of four national leaders from four diverse disciplines to serve as plenary speakers: theologian Sister Patricia Talone, physician and ethicist Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, social scientist Wendy Cadge, and executive Chris Lowney.
Sister Patricia Talone, RSM, is vice president of mission services for the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA). She lectures extensively on mission and healthcare ethics.
Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, OFM, currently the University of Chicago’s Kilbride-Clinton professor of medicine and ethics in the Department of Medicine and Divinity School, is also associate director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. His research interests encompass both theoretical and empirical investigations of the ethics of end-of-life decision-making, ethics education, and spirituality in medicine.
Wendy Cadge is an associate professor in the Sociology Department at Brandeis University, where she is currently working on a series of new projects about religion and spirituality in secular settings, including port and maritime contexts, airports, and the U.S. Senate.
Chris Lowney, formerly a Jesuit, chairs the board of Catholic Health Initiatives, one of the nation’s largest healthcare/hospital systems. His new book, titled “Pope Francis: Why he Leads the Way He Leads,” explores the compassionate leadership style of the first Jesuit pontiff.
When we go to NACC conferences we experience a wealth of hospitality, colleague interaction, and well-prepared liturgies. We look for opportunities to broaden our knowledge base as chaplains. We desire to find educational workshops that help with those famous 50 annual hours of continuing education hours (CEHs). This year, as has been true in the past, the NACC Conference Planning Task Force has sought to provide all you want and more in the workshop offerings. We listened to critiques of past conferences and have reinstated three workshop times. We had abundance of proposals – 38 to be exact– for the 24 slots. What a challenge to narrow them down to 24! The selection committee for workshops has encouraged the NACC to consider some of the other 14 as webinars. We likewise had an abundance of choices for the pre-conference four-hour workshops. From the 12 proposals, we selected four. Let us highlight some of the choices we have for your selection and educational learning.
Our pre-conference workshops will see topics of self-care, motivational interviewing, and two theological topics, healing suffering and end-of-life issues. We all talk about self-care, but do we actually practice it ourselves? The pre-conference workshop will offer “proven techniques to reduce the “stress response” in the moment and over time.” Motivational interviewing “is an evidence-based approach to helping people name and address ambivalence when looking at change.” With so much change occurring in healthcare we are faced with the ambivalence daily. The workshop on Healing suffering will highlight use of what chaplains do intuitively with a spiritual assessment tool to communicate with the interdisciplinary team. The end-of-life workshop will discuss the difference between palliative care and hospice, explain some of the tasks at the end of life, and assist in reflection on one’s own hopes and fears.
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Here is just a taste of what to expect when you receive the conference registration material for the 75- minute workshops. We have three different self-care presentations, one in each workshop section. There are three workshops on working with and building volunteer programs to supplement the work of the certified chaplains, again one in each workshop section. How would you like to be able to dialogue with your bishop to advance diocese-wide healthcare? Or maybe you want to work collaboratively with clergy of different faiths and cultures in your area to respond to the diverse populations in your institution. Another workshop will assist in the struggle we all have on how to decide who needs us most. This workshop will have a screening tool to assist with that decision-making process.
As we begin to look outside the acute care center, we have workshops to assist with ways to begin that journey of leadership, as one of the workshops is titled “Thinking Outside the Box….” There are workshops on prison ministry, working as chaplains in physicians’ offices, using the PACE model, a panel about palliative care, and the challenges for chaplains entering the world of the researcher.
We have workshops that are theological in focus. Suffering is a topic that we chaplains deal with daily. One workshop explores the different ways people experience suffering and offers practical strategies for helping ourselves and those we serve “to grow through the natural suffering that is part of life.” Many chaplains find themselves involved with neonatal units and the joys and sorrows that follow. A workshop called “From Newborn Loss Comes the Gift of Hope” speaks theologically about loss and hope. “Celebrations of Life in a Changing Culture” makes us aware of different ways families grieve and how the culture has changed. And if you want to know more about the spirituality of Pope Francis, we offer a workshop called “In Dialogue with St. Ignatius,” which provides the chaplain a prophetic role in the institution.
Look over the forthcoming registration packet and you’ll find workshops that are about self-care, multi-ministry or new ministry, forming partnerships or being leaders, palliative care, theological or volunteer programs, even drumming. There are many valuable workshops that will enhance our learning and competencies as chaplains and supervisors.
The setting for the national conference will be in the magnificent St. Louis Union Station Hotel. Built in 1894, this gem of a building was once considered the “most beautiful terminal in the United States.” After a multi-million dollar renovation, the St. Louis Union Station Hotel, a Double Tree Hotel by Hilton, will provide comfortable accommodations and amenities to restore one’s spirit. The hotel is close to many St. Louis points of interest. Clearly, this will be a conference worth attending!
Peg McGonigal and Father Jack Crabb are members of the 2014 NACC Conference Planning Task Force.