By Nancy Many
Last year, after much patient coaching from my NACC mentor, I passed my board certification. In the months that followed, my mentor, Kelly Bigler, coached me on attending the conference. She told me that the commissioning ceremony alone was worth it, to say nothing of the CEUs.
I registered for the conference, but the date seemed to come so quickly. On my early morning flight, I wondered what chaplains I might run into. I had worked with both APC and NACC chaplains in New England, California, and now Nevada. I entered the hotel and, as if by magic, sitting directly in front of the doors was Father Ken. We had worked together in Southern California at St. Joe’s. In fact, I had taken over his night-shift position for two hospitals when he switched to days. I was greeted with his bright smile and warm hug. In that moment, I knew Kelly had been right; this was perfect. I needed to do this.
I spent Thursday morning volunteering at the registration desk, where I met up with a fellow NACC chaplain and a past CPE supervisor of mine — Wilson, from New England. I also made friends with several volunteers working at our station. So many chaplains. It felt both strange and natural at the same time. When I lived in Los Angeles, I would overhear conversations regarding the entertainment industry. In Washington, politics and political jargon were normal over coffee. For the first time in my life, I found myself among strangers having conversations about CAPH scores and POLSTs.
I got my own registration bag and had a chance to see more of what was in store. I knew there would be a rehearsal for the ceremony, and I checked to see when and where. There were two and a half hours of rehearsal! Is this correct? I asked a fellow volunteer. Yes, she nodded. Chaplain that she was, she had me in a more accepting mood in no time. But, darn, two and a half hours.
I spent Friday afternoon in rehearsal, first for those of us in NACC who were being missioned and blessed. The time went by quickly as everywhere I turned there was another chaplain to meet. That recognition and easy banter continued with the APC/NACC joint rehearsal. I had a 30-minute briefing for those of us who were attending for the first time. Then I visited the labyrinth, the reflective space, and the exhibit hall.
Our conference opening and speaker were wonderful. In fact I was moved by all our speakers. They gave me food for thought and broadened my understanding in areas of chaplaincy, as well as the tough societal issues we deal with daily.
The NACC missioning was done as part of the celebration of the Eucharist with the bishop presiding. This was very moving for me personally and reminded me of how I felt when I was commissioned as a Eucharistic minister. I felt it was a sacred confirmation of the calling that God had given me. I felt blessed to be there among so many others who had also received the calling to the vocation of chaplaincy.
I was also excited to see Charity, who took over the St. Joseph and Tarzana night-shift position after I left and is still there. Charity and I can share both the challenges and joys of what that work is like. We sat together for the grand banquet and enjoyed every minute of it.
Our NACC missioning was quite a counterpoint to the APC ceremony. I had heard the APC “dances.” I got my first clue when we found a plastic bag filled with noise makers, confetti, and tambourines at our banquet table. It took a while to get through all the newly certified and recertified members of both the APC and the NACC. And yes, there was music and dancing, a very large celebration. I felt as if I received the best of both worlds — the calm, sacred Eucharist and blessing and then the celebration of the achievement. I felt blessed to be receiving my certification during a joint APC/NACC conference. The joining was a collaboration that benefited us all.
Nancy Many, BCC, is volunteer coordinator and chaplain at Seasons Hospice in Las Vegas, NV.