By Jack Conrad
The last few years have been extremely difficult in so many ways for all of us, but certainly for the NACC staff and board. We are into our third year of COVID-19 and all of its implications. We were happy for David Lichter when he announced his retirement. His legacy is a large one. However, over the past year this required the board to focus on searching for a new executive director. We were so happy to find Erica Cohen Moore, who is bringing great excitement and energy into NACC.
So when the NACC Board gathered in Milwaukee in person in March for the first time after two-plus years, it was exciting. A good portion of the Board was new from three years back. Erica was new, and several staff members are preparing for retirement in 2022. So much was on our plate. But the interaction and camaraderie was wonderful and it led to great discussions about the next five to ten years.
We are heartened that COVID-19 has shown chaplaincy to be an essential function in healthcare. The need for professional chaplaincy will continue to rise. So we have updated our Strategic Plan to include four main areas: Ministry and the Church; Education and Marketing; Racial Justice, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging; and Structure and Finance.
Ministry and the Church
NACC is not just a wonderful organization dedicated to its healthcare roots. It is also an essential part of the pastoral ministry of the Church. Thus, we look to not only strengthen our members but also to grow our presence in more fields. In the last two years we have formed a relationship with the Catholic Prison Ministry Coalition, which has certainly raised our awareness of the need to assist prison chaplains. There are also police and fire chaplains, military chaplains, corporate chaplains, and more. All these people are part of the outreach of the Church.
Because of this expansion of scope, we need to organize NACC to create and curate programs for the development and formation of all who serve in the Church’s pastoral care ministry.
Outside of healthcare, much needs to be developed to provide for these new areas of chaplaincy, including levels of certification. We are forming an ad hoc committee to re-evaluate and re-envision the Associate Chaplain certification. This may well become an entry point for people who are interested in chaplaincy but aren’t now required to have a BCC for their ministerial position (e.g. prison chaplain, port chaplain, etc.). We see this also as an important way of advancing our membership.
We will also continue to grow our relationship with our Partners in Pastoral Care to take the competencies we have already developed and create a program that can be used by dioceses throughout the country. We will better utilize technology to deliver programming to ministers (volunteers, lay ecclesial ministers, chaplains, clergy) throughout the country.
We will also work with the ACPE and other organizations to increase the number of CPE classes available to people interested in ministry outside of healthcare (e.g., first responders, human trafficking, corrections, etc.)
This will require new organization on the part of NACC, and will require us to perform the next strategic goal well.
Education and Marketing
As mentioned before, chaplaincy has evolved, especially during the pandemic, as an essential function within healthcare, but it still is not recognized enough by the public. With our Strategic Partners, we plan extend our marketing initiatives above and beyond the “Choose Chaplaincy” campaign to increase awareness of the vital vocation of chaplaincy.
In addition we want to raise awareness in other institutions by proactive outreach to our colleges/universities. We will continue to support our Strategic Partners while maintaining independence as a Catholic organization. And we will be intentional about training pastoral care leadership who are involved in the development of our chaplains.
Racial Justice, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging
In the last two years, our society has been reckoning with the disparities in our country and the world. This needs to be a focus for our organization as well. NACC will promote racial justice, diversity, inclusion and belonging among its members and assess/remedy inequities within the association. NACC is committed to providing formation and education to its leadership, staff and members in diversity, inclusion and belonging. We will:
- Require two CEUs annually on the subject.
- Continue to welcome and support members from our BIPOC communities and develop ways to lift people up into leadership roles who are from diverse or underrepresented communities.
- Grow our resources in Spanish and other languages.
- Continue to review competencies so they reflect the need for the diversity of chaplaincy.
Structure and Finance
To accomplish these goals, NACC must have the necessary personnel, financial resources, and technical tools. We are committed to:
- Seek grants and development support within NACC and in conjunction with our strategic partners.
- Increase membership via the CAC and Partners in Pastoral Care.
- Develop a comprehensive communication plan so that we can demonstrate NACC as the quality certification organization that it is.
So there you have it. NACC is looking to build on a wonderful 50-plus-year history and lean into the future to secure the profession of Catholic chaplaincy. We bring a wonderful ministry to all that we serve, and through our strategic goals hope to advance our profession.
Deacon Jack Conrad, BCC, is manager of spiritual care at CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, NM, and a member of the NACC Board of Directors.