By David Lichter
As the 2017 National Conference, “Hearts on Fire: Our Own Emmaus Journey,” is now three weeks ended, we remain deeply grateful to the Conference Planning Task Force, chaired by Beth Lenegan and staffed by Jeanine Annunziato and Andris Kursietis, for their excellent preparation and implementation. Each year I marvel at the Spirit’s lead in identifying a theme, choosing speakers, selecting workshops, preparing liturgies, and creating a warm and welcoming environment that provides the context for personal, spiritual, and professional renewal. Each year is so unique, and participants of this year’s event commented often on the grace-filled ambience of the setting, the flute music filling the corridors, the call-to-quiet reflection invitation to everyone, and the gentle hospitality of the Santa Ana Pueblo, Tamaya people.
I am so aware of the unique, and expensive, opportunity that our national conference represents. This year brought 360 participants with another 60-plus joining via streaming. With NACC membership at 2,100, this means 20 percent of our membership was able to participate in the conference. Over the past ten years, 20-22 percent has been the average. For about 40 to 60 participants, it’s their first conference. Some return each year, while for many it’s an every-other-year, or every-three-year event. For so many who continue the healing ministry in the name of the Church, this inspiring NACC event remains a source of profound joy and renewal in their ecclesial mooring — since so many of our ministries are lived out in settings where we might be the only Catholic serving among a wonderful group of interfaith peers.
Every year I have the privilege to congratulate personally each newly certified member, along with Mary T. O’Neill, our Board Chair. Again, this year I could see in their eyes the fruition of the sacred sacrifices they made to become board certified, and I felt the deep passion in each of them. I witnessed again that “continuing the healing ministry in the name of the Church” was being lived out in their vocations. What a sacred moment and ministry this is!
I always pray that those who are blessed to participate be leaven for our membership and for their places of ministry, so that together, with one another, we can fulfill the mission of NACC as it: advocates for the profession of spiritual care and educates, certifies, and supports chaplains, clinical pastoral educators, and all members who continue the healing ministry of Jesus in the name of the Church.