By David Lewellen
The NACC’s 2019 conference officially opened with a Mass to recognize the association’s newly certified chaplains. That event happens every year, but this year’s ceremony, in the ornate Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, was a different-looking affair from the usual hotel ballroom.
“You could feel the love in the room,” newly certified Tim Lankford said afterward. “Being in a church, there’s a sense of holiness. You couldn’t ask for a better setting.”
“This event always brings me annual joy,” said Bishop Donald Hying, the NACC’s episcopal liaison. “This is a moment to ponder the wonder of your existence. None of us willed ourselves to be. We just found ourselves in this skin, and sometimes we wonder why we are here. Let’s think about the people along the way who formed us, fed us, nurtured us, accepted us.”
Bishop Hying talked about moments of transcendence, whether through nature, art, prayer, or simple conversation, in which each person feels recognized as someone loved by God. Whether a hospital, prison, nursing home, family, or church, “every place where people hang out should be a place of transcendence and acceptance.”
Many of the newly certified chaplains might have felt similar emotions as they walked past the altar to receive their certificates and be congratulated by Bishop Hying, NACC Executive Director David Lichter, and Board Chair Jim Letourneau. The full congregation greeted them with long applause and arms extended in blessing.
“It’s a blessing to celebrate with the community,” said newly certified Fr. Ikechi Korie, OP. “A Mass is a thanksgiving, and I say thank you to God for making it possible.”