By David Lichter
This issue of Vision quickly follows our 2016 National Conference held April 22-25 in Chicago. The contributors worked to capture their thoughts and insights so that you, our members, get a glimpse of this annual event, and gain resources for your professional ministry. We are grateful to all who contributed.
I continue to be awed each time we gather for this event. My guesstimate is that it’s the first time for one-third of the participants; one-third are members who missed last year or several years due to time and money; and about one-third come every year. This mix of participants creates a rich, vibrant community of seekers of insights, of networking partners, of resources, and of spiritual nourishment that reminds of why we do what we do. We are deeply grateful to all of you who participated.
Also, we are grateful to the many members who were able to join us for the opening prayer service and the four plenary talks via video streaming. I hope you also felt part of the gathering.
While other authors of this issue are providing overviews of the speakers and workshops, I want to use the remainder of this column to highlight two points.
First of all, at the business meeting I shared both NACC’s current financial state and our key strategic initiatives. The Board of Directors met prior to the Conference to determine and refine key initiatives that will contribute to NACC’s long-term mission and direction on behalf of the profession. I personally am very grateful to them for providing me their priorities and support. Let me highlight those initiatives here:
- Providing leadership for preparing and supporting diverse Catholic ministries involved in spiritual and pastoral care: The NACC, with its mission to continue the healing ministry of Jesus in the name of the Church, is exploring how best to provide leadership with key Catholic ministry partners to offer the highest quality of pastoral care for the most vulnerable by ensuring the appropriate preparation for those ministering in those diverse pastoral settings. We are beginning a planning process to share current practices, and systematically identify:
- Those with the most critical pastoral care needs;
- The type of pastoral care needed;
- The competencies required to meet those needs;
- The diverse ministries (e.g. board-certified chaplains, pastoral associates, volunteer pastoral visitors) needed with these competencies;
- The standards/training/formation required to obtain those competencies;
- An agreed-upon organizational approach to provide the ministry preparation needed.
- Expanding membership categories: In light of the first initiative, the Board will determine what membership categories are needed for institutions, dioceses, and graduate programs that see the value of a relationship with NACC and one another to support the preparation for the diverse pastoral care ministries.
- Determining other certification categories: NACC has been approached to consider somehow recognizing those who have been prepared for the diverse pastoral care ministries other than board-certified chaplains. The NACC Certification Commission will make recommendations to the NACC Board of Directors.
- Diversifying financial resources: This year we are exploring the interest of Catholic foundations to support NACC initiatives and partnerships to improve the formation and support of those providing pastoral care. We have begun to qualify and approach foundations.
- Creating alliances with other Catholic chaplaincy organizations: The USCCB Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service, which approved the NACC Certification Standards and Procedures, has also supported dialogue among the diverse Catholic chaplaincy groups to find ways to collaborate, to advocate for the chaplaincy ministry and to consolidate administrative needs. NACC has begun such a dialogue with the American Catholic Correctional Chaplains Association.
- Engaging our bishops on the value of our chaplaincy ministry: Bishop Donald Hying, our USCCB episcopal liaison, has already sent a letter to the archbishops of the USCCB provinces requesting a spot for an NACC representative on a provincial meeting agenda to share our mission and to seek ways to encourage the chaplaincy ministry. We are grateful for Bishop Hying’s initiative, and we have begun to receive responses.
- Collaborating with our cognate partners on revisions of Common Standards: This has been exciting work over the past months. The Common Standards revision is being approved by each of the five cognate partners’ boards (ACPE, APC, CASC, NACC, and NAJC), and should be ready for release this summer. Also, the same five cognate groups are revising/updating the 2001 white paper on professional chaplaincy. The result will be available electronically as an entire document or in sections for member usage and promotion of chaplaincy.
I hope this provides you a glimpse of NACC’s several vital initiatives that contribute to our long-term mission and direction.
The second item I want to comment on is the recent announcement by HealthCare Chaplaincy Network that it is creating the Spiritual Care Association. As a reader of this column and a member of NACC, you can see that we are working with many Catholic stakeholders and our cognate partners to advance and strengthen chaplaincy. So the unexpected announcement that HCCN is forming the SCA, their reasons provided for doing so, and their portrayal of our cognate groups left many of you troubled and confused about this proposed certification — which requires less education and clinical training and does not meet the competence outlined in the Common Standards, but is being marketed as “the new generation of Common Standards for professional chaplaincy.”
As you know, within a week of the announcement, NACC, along with our cognate American partners — ACPE, APC, and NAJC — sent an open letter to our members affirming our commitment to the Common Standards and to our ongoing collaborative effort to improve our approach to preparing, certifying, and supporting our members.
Let me reiterate what I wrote in the May 2 edition of NACC Now:
HCCN has provided and continues to provide research, education, and advocacy for the profession of chaplaincy. Much of it is helpful. However, HCCN’S development of the SCA, its aggressive marketing to recruit cognate members, its promotion of its certification and credentialing as THE way forward for the profession, and its decision not to engage the cognate groups, evoke troubling reactions.
NACC leaders remain committed to our strong and invaluable collaboration with our cognate partners to improve our profession, and to adhere to the Common Standards as the gold standard for the profession of chaplaincy. We will seek to explore in the future viable options for partnership with HCCN. A future task will be to engage in research to ensure that our certification processes and competencies outlined in the Common Standards are effective to address the needs of those we serve. Each of you offers evidence of our commitment to the pursuit of best practice and the provision of quality care.
We, as NACC members, continue the healing ministry of Jesus in the name of the Church. We do this as professional board-certified chaplains, along with many others who seek to provide the best spiritual care to those most in need. I continue to believe and live by the theme of the 2016 Conference, “Behold, I make all things new!” In the midst of many challenges and unknowns, we trust the guidance and gifts of the Spirit through our NACC leaders, and through all of you, our members.