By Fr. Thomas G. Landry III
How passionate about, how committed to the care of the sick are you? Will you leave the context and all that is familiar about parish ministry as priest to focus your life and ministry within a healthcare setting? So came the question and began the journey that would challenge, guide, and sustain me for fully a third of the 32 years it has been my privilege to share in the life and ministry of the Church as priest.
Through a decade of being blessed and being called to proclaim the many blessings of our God in the midst of the sick and those who sought to serve them, from hospital rooms to boardrooms, the members and the leaders of the NACC accompanied me to deepen my journey with and into Christ. A website and documents became the gateway to an encounter with women and men of passion. Guidelines and standards created an arena in which I discovered the powerful witness of individuals and communities of faith and a professional commitment in ministry.
At a regional celebration in Worcester, Massachusetts, Fr. Joe Driscoll, then executive director of the NACC, handed me the certificate that formally designated me a chaplain certified by the NACC. Little did I know that in a few years I would be called to Milwaukee to fill the need for an interim executive director! Little did I know that the next certificate, indicating that my certification had been renewed, would bear my own signature!
During my time to collaborate with the national office of the NACC, with the Board of Directors, and with the many committees that serve the NACC’s members, you helped me to discover my gifts, to find a new measure of my hope and creativity in the face of challenges. You revealed to me your faithful devotion and your persistent dedication to the development of each one’s gifts and to the courageous transformation of communities of faith and of service. I witnessed the development of relationships among members and leaders in our association. I witnessed the relocation of the national office. I witnessed the deepening mutual respect among the various professional certifying bodies across faith groups that would ensure greater strength for all professional chaplains. I witnessed the voice of chaplains’ experience addressing in print and in face-to-face encounters the needs, the shortcomings, the potential, and the ever-higher calling of every organization and entity that cares for the sick.
From hospital and medical associations to institutions of advanced education, from state and national healthcare regulatory bodies to the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops, you have reminded us all that Christ is to be found and served in the poor, the sick, and the suffering. You have called us all to share in the discovery anew of the ways in which the gentle yet strong hands, face, and voice of Christ can and must be known in us. You call us to be courageous in the will to remove barriers to ministry. You call us to be open to the Spirit to see not as we see, but as God sees.
In the years following the Second Vatican Council, new questions were asked and new answers were explored. New light shone in dark corners, and new vistas of hope and promise established a broader and deeper vision of what and who it means to be Church. In our 50 years, the NACC has become a gift we rightly honor. In our labor and laughter together, in our moments of quiet retreat and vigorous discussion, in our prayer and professional practice, God weaves a consistent fabric of our many lives to give comfort and warmth, to claim, and to proclaim.
My tremendous privilege to explore my own journey of faith with the NACC through formation and certification, and my time to serve in a leadership role at the national office, were surprises God had held in store for me, and cause in me now a profound gratitude. The tremendous witness that you continue to offer calls forth in me now a true Spirit of rejoicing!
Fr. Tom Landry was interim executive director of the NACC in 2006-07. He serves currently at St. Cecilia Parish in Leominster, MA, and at Health Alliance Hospital in Leominster.