By David Lewellen
The National Association of Catholic Chaplains is in good financial shape for now, but the trend lines are troubling.
At the annual conference’s business meeting, Executive Director David Lichter said that the association has net assets of $1.1 million, slightly more than a year’s budget, which is considered a good margin. But forecasts for revenue, as well as for membership, point downward. Current membership is 2,186, and Lichter said that the NACC has been budgeting for an annual membership drop of 4 percent. The average age of a certified member is 61, he said, and he has been telling bishops and educational programs that “the presence of Catholic pastoral care in hospitals is in jeopardy unless more women and men are encouraged to consider chaplaincy as a ministry.”
Looking for long-term solutions, the NACC is exploring how best to coordinate efforts with other Catholic ministry groups to provide the highest quality pastoral care where it is needed, such as prisons, airports, and parishes. Through a letter from Bishop Donald Hying, the episcopal liaison, the association has also reached out to archbishops to get on the agenda of provincial meetings. The NACC is considering adding membership categories so that dioceses or other organizations could join, and is discussing other levels of certification categories. “This wasn’t thought up in the last two weeks,” Lichter said, alluding to the recent move by HealthCare Chaplaincy Network to create a competing organization with lower standards.
Elaborating on that development, Board Chair Mary Lou O’Gorman praised the quick and unified response by the NACC, APC, NAJC and ACPE. “We believe the Common Standards are the gold standard,” she said. Along with ecclesial endorsement, “It roots our identity and makes us accountable and credible.”
During the question period, new board member Tim Serban said that the NACC would be willing to work with HCCN, if an invitation were extended, rather than “just play offense or defense.” But, he pointed out, disruption can represent opportunity.
Serban also announced that four candidates will compete for two open spots on the Board of Directors, to be elected this summer and take office in January. The four are Bev Beltramo, Nancy Cook, Carolanne Hauck, and Hyun Underwood.