By Karen Pugliese
Quietly waiting for the NACC business meeting to begin, I found myself visualizing and cataloguing all the similar meetings I’ve attended over the past 34 years. As I reflected on this meeting, located on Native American tribal grounds, the image of “Vision Quest,” surfaced as an evocative symbol of our prophetic call as chaplains, and our ministry as a professional association.
Board Chair Mary T. O’Neill welcomed participants and new board members Beverly Beltramo and Carolanne Hauck. Jim Letourneau, Chair Elect, led the gathering prayer.
Describing this year’s pre-conference board meeting as “full, creative, energizing and substantial,” Executive Director David Lichter set the tone for the business meeting agenda. His report, “Snapshots from 2016”, was characterized by the word “collaboration,” and structured in the form of three significant signposts: Looking Back at accomplishments; Present Day membership issues and survey responses; and Looking Forward to strategic priorities.
David expressed deep appreciation for a highly successful year. As I listened to his coverage of the financials and the increase in gifts, sponsorships and partnerships, I was aware that many of our hearts were burning with gratitude for David’s 10 years of stewardship, this year resulting in an amazing $193,441 surplus. Tremendous support for visioning the future of chaplaincy, and in particular, the pastoral ministry of the Church, came from a $30,000 Raskob grant – a Catholic foundation funding our planning process. The Goal IV Team is developing future scenarios for NACC, identifying settings for pastoral care and grappling with questions such as – what levels of competence and training are needed? What kind of programming would be necessary, and what would the outcome look like in terms of recognition or credentialing? The team will apply for a Phase II Grant for a feasibility study of expanding our focus to additional ministries within the church. David and NACC state representatives have engaged bishops in dialogue focused both on promoting chaplaincy and how NACC can assist dioceses in ministry formation.
Collaboration continues with our cognate partners in professional chaplaincy. NACC partnered with ACPE, APC, CASC and NAJC in creating common certification competencies, narratives, questions and intended outcomes. Planning is in process for a joint APC-NACC conference in Anaheim, CA, in July, 2018. Just a few days before our conference, plans were confirmed for a joint ACPE, APC, CASC and NAJC conference in 2020.
Together with our strategic partners NACC is looking at developing associate levels and expanding certification. On the closing day of the conference, the conversation was scheduled to continue with the CHA Advisory Council as well.
Beverly Beltramo presented preliminary results of the Membership Survey, especially related to sustainability given concerns about aging membership and fewer new members. Five hundred and forty respondents identified five critical areas: professional advocacy; new ministry settings and new ways to minister; financial stability and job security; advocacy with bishops and the Church; and continuing to be the presence of Christ in an increasingly bottom-line-driven industry. Asked if NACC should seek to strengthen relationships with cognate chaplaincy groups, with other ministry groups within the Church, or both, more than 300 responded “Both.”
Jim Letourneau outlined a three-pronged approach to our strategic priorities this year. First, promotion of professional chaplaincy, including advocacy, marketing and recruitment efforts; professional development (research, advanced certification and clinical outcomes); and cultivation of strategic partnerships.
Jim characterized the current approach to Catholic spiritual/pastoral care ministry as “electric.” This encompasses competency development; services; and educational resources and partnerships within ministry groups. Upcoming meetings with bishops will clarify what we can offer them and their dioceses, and what types of memberships, formation and cultivation might be provided. The third focus will be to clarify relationships and expectations for a Phase 2 Raskob Foundation grant.
Tim Serban led a listening session, inviting participants to reflect on what questions might be surfacing and what further information we need. Comments from table discussions were recorded and collected. Feedback will be summarized and shared with the board and members in the coming weeks.
The meeting concluded as it began — with gratitude and recognition, and with the blessing of 25-year anniversaries, NACC staff and volunteers.
As it was for the disciples on the road to Emmaus, there was more to talk about than time for conversation. We were encouraged to look to NACC Now and Vision, as well as local gatherings and networking calls, for updates as we continue the quest for a meaningful and sustainable future for NACC.
Karen Pugliese, BCC, is an advanced practice chaplain at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, IL.