By David Lichter
Two hours into my first day with NACC, on Aug. 1, 2007, I had a conference call with Brian Yanofchick, then with the Catholic Health Association, to plan for the October 2007 Omaha Summit that worked to establish a vision for spiritual care within Catholic health ministry. A month later, I attended my first CHA Prophetic Voice (at the gracious invitation of Brian Yanofchick), which allowed me to witness the collaborative spirit among Catholic healthcare leaders.
Collaboration with Catholic partners has always been a vital part of what NACC does. In recent years, we have enhanced our partnership with U.S. bishops and continued to work closely with several other Catholic groups.
The members of the NACC Episcopal Advisory Council have been strategic partners in helping us to strengthen our relationships with the bishops. In 2011, we began to send an annual World Day of the Sick letter to bishops providing more background on NACC, its certification process, and the purpose and meaning of endorsement. We also began to provide ordinaries a list of our NACC members serving in their dioceses. The main message in these letters, and in sharing this information, has been to let them know how the NACC members are partnering with the bishops in meeting the pastoral care needs of the Church.
Just in the past year, our relationship-building with the bishops has been further enhanced. On the initiative of Bishop Don Hying, our USCCB Episcopal Liaison, we have sent NACC representatives to the bishops’ provincial meetings to discuss both how NACC can promote chaplaincy as a vocational call to church ministry and how we can partner with dioceses to support their pastoral care ministry. These provincial meetings so far have been very instructive, and bishops are viewing the NACC as a valuable partner.
Our other major Catholic partners are CHA, the Supportive Care Coalition, and the Association of Graduate Programs in Ministry (AGPIM). We are so very grateful to the continued partnership with CHA through the Pastoral Care Advisory Committee that includes representatives of several Catholic health systems who oversee spiritual care for their systems. Brian Smith and I co-chair this committee, which embodies the excellent spirit of collaboration among Catholic health systems. Its work has resulted in several Health Progress articles on spiritual care over the years, a CHA e-learning module on spiritual care, and other spiritual care resources. CHA is a highly valued collaborator.
As you know, the Supportive Care Coalition includes several Catholic health ministries that organize, educate, and advocate for excellence in palliative care. The NACC honored the Supportive Care Coalition with its 2016 Outstanding Colleague Award for their efforts to change the climate of end-of-life care, not just for those being served but also for the professionals caring for them. Teaching skills that include but also transcend traditional medicine, the SCC has helped the entire care team to embrace new dimensions of self-care and spiritual awareness that eases the way for them and those they serve. We are deeply grateful for the collaboration with Tina Picchi, their executive director, in preparing and implementing NACC’s Advanced Certification Hospice and Palliative Care.
AGPIM members, consisting of over 30 Catholic pastoral ministry graduate programs, have been excellent collaborators with NACC in giving their graduate students information on chaplaincy as a possible calling to ministry. Many of them have worked with the NACC in developing pastoral care and chaplaincy specializations, and many have partnered on hosting local NACC gatherings. I visit their annual meetings as often as I can to share updates on NACC, and well as discuss with them how their programs can better align with the NACC Certification Qualifications and Competencies. They have been great partners.
Most recently, we have engaged several Catholic associations and organizations in the Raskob Foundation-funded Partners in Planning for Pastoral Care Ministry. This is a remarkable, first-time collaboration among Catholic entities whose missions include pastoral care. Last October in Milwaukee, the NACC hosted the first collaborative planning session that included the USCCB Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service; CHA’s Pastoral Care Advisory Committee; National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry; representatives of Catholic health systems with volunteer training programs; American Catholic Correctional Chaplains Association; National Association of Diaconate Directors; Alliance for the Certification of Lay Ecclesial Ministry; Community Faith Nurses; and directors of diocesan pastoral care ministries.
This planning process should help us identify: those with the most critical pastoral needs and the settings where they are most often found; the types of pastoral care competencies needed to meet those needs; the diverse ministries (board certified, pastoral associates, volunteers, parish nurses) needed with these competencies; the standards/training/formation required to obtain those competencies; the core elements for professional and volunteer pastoral care formation and accountabilities required; and an organizational approach to provide those ministry preparations. Jim Letourneau writes more about this initiative in this Vision issue.
The second planning session of this exciting and ambitious project will take place in May 2017. We hope to have more results to share soon as we work for ever-closer and better cooperation within the Catholic Church.