The NACC honored one longtime member and two longtime friends Saturday night for their contributions to the association and to chaplaincy as a whole.
Nancy Cook, regional director of spiritual care at Christus Southeast Texas Health System, received the Distinguished Service Award for her work on the NACC’s Standards Commission, Finance Committee, and as a state liaison and interview team educator.
“Her positive energy and charisma has spread across the entire Christus system,” said Fr. Emmanuel Chikezie in his introduction. “Nancy is a very humble individual. She doesn’t want accolades. But Nancy, I’m giving you that today.”
Cook thanked her team at Christus and “a lot of other people who work just as hard and just as long.” Chaplaincy as a profession has “made great strides, and there are also great strides ahead of us,” she said. “But we will get to where we need to be.”
George Fitchett, PhD, an APC chaplain and one of the leading researchers of spiritual care, received the Outstanding Colleague Award. Decades ago, “he wasn’t welcomed with open arms by chaplains or by doctors, but he persevered,” said Caterina Mako in her introduction. “He’s available to anyone who comes to him with a thoughtful question or a challenge.”
Fitchett thanked the NACC for years of support and friendship, in particular its support of the Templeton Foundation grant that funded the Transforming Chaplaincy program. “That work will come back to you” in its future benefits, he said.
The association’s other Outstanding Colleague, Cecille Asekoff, helped found Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains in 1989 and has been a long-standing advocate for professional chaplaincy. David Lichter told the audience that Asekoff recognized that collaboration is “only possible if you are deeply rooted in your own tradition. … She insists on mutual respectful collaboration.”
“Every faith group has its own uniqueness which must be preserved,” Asekoff said in her acceptance, and that was one reason she felt a kinship with the NACC: “We did not want to get swallowed up in the melting pot of bigness.” Instead, she used the metaphor of the tossed salad, where “a tomato stays a tomato, a cucumber stays a cucumber, as part of one delicious whole.”