For him, volunteering equals ownership
Name: Deacon Thomas J. Berna, BCC
Work: contract chaplain, State Correctional Institution – Pittsburgh (medium security state prison for men)
Member since: 2010
Volunteer service: At the NACC National Conference 2012, I was a workshop moderator and assisted at Sunday Mass. At the NACC National Conference 2013, I was a local host (helped with planning, assisted as needed during conference, assisted at Sunday Mass, provided poster on “No One Dies Alone,” hosted and introduced two speakers at the conference.
Book on your nightstand: “This Our Exile: A Spiritual Journey with the Refugees of East Africa,” by James Martin, SJ
Book you recommend most often: “Tattoos on the Heart,” by Gregory Boyle, SJ
Favorite spiritual resource: The Bible
Favorite fun self-care activity: Fly-fishing and hiking; reading when weather is not suitable for hiking or fishing
Favorite movie: “The Princess Bride” (1987)
Favorite retreat spot: Annual deacon and wives retreat (various locations)
Personal mentor or role model: I have a friend in his 80s whom I have known for nearly 40 years. He is deeply rooted in Scripture. He and his wife each minister to people “on the fringe” of society. I admire their dedication, their commitment to each other and to the Gospel. My wife and I are both active in ministry to the poor, and we continue to explore new ways to serve.
Famous/historic mentor or role model: Dorothy Day
Why did you become a chaplain? I served as a volunteer chaplain in a maximum security state prison in Texas for about six years and really loved the men and the ministry. As I prepared to retire from my 30-year career as an engineer, a friend (permanent deacon and board certified chaplain) told me about an opening for a CPE resident in the hospital where he worked. I felt excited at the prospect (hoping to improve my ability to minister to prisoners as well as to hospital patients). The residency was a time of unparalleled growth. When I completed the residency I moved with my wife to Pittsburgh, PA, where our three married daughters and their children were living. I worked three years part-time as a hospital chaplain and as a contract prison chaplain. I recently left the hospital to provide more balance in my life. As a deacon I visit many parishioners who are ill – in their homes and in healthcare facilities. CPE helps me daily in ministry.
What do you get from NACC? Support, encouragement, challenge to grow, opportunities for continuing education (at conferences, local events and online)
Why do you stay in the NACC? For personal and professional benefit and to support NACC as it supports chaplains. My job does not require that I be a board certified chaplain, but I require it of myself.
Why do you volunteer? For me, volunteering equals ownership. I want to be more than a member “in name only.” I volunteered to present a workshop at the 2014 conference. I believe I have something to offer – and a lot to learn.
What volunteer activity has been most rewarding? I think my role as a local host for the 2013 conference was most demanding and most rewarding. I volunteer extensively outside of NACC, but within the organization the 2013 conference was my most rewarding experience.
What have you learned from volunteering? By volunteering on the 2013 conference planning task force I met wonderful people, I was able to express my opinions, and I learned how much work is involved in the conference. By volunteering in simpler roles I learned that everyone is welcome and encouraged to support the NACC; not every organization welcomes and encourages its members to this extent.