July 4, 2014

Parish nurses and health ministers share ideas, network at retreat

By Natalie Hoefer

NASHVILLE—People in parish health ministry are tasked with nurturing the whole health of parish members—body, mind and soul.

Such an important but daunting task is made easier by the annual Parish Nursing Retreat sponsored by the archdiocesan Health Ministry, a branch of the Office of Pro-Life and Family Life. The retreat was held this year at St. Agnes Parish in Nashville on June 13.

“It’s good to find out resources,” said attendee Pat Delph, a registered nurse who is starting a health ministry at her home parish of St. Jude in Indianapolis. “You don’t want to reinvent the wheel if someone has a good program that works already.”

Ideas, services and programs were shared by speakers with years of experience in parish nursing and health ministry, including speakers from the archdiocese.

Theresa Chamblee, executive assistant for the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and director for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, gave a demonstration of the archdiocese’s new Catholic Help Network. This online database, chn.archindy.org, allows users who both need and provide help to search for services available in parishes and through Catholic organizations in the archdiocese.

“It’s a terrific resource,” said Susan O’Reilly, a registered nurse who is in the process of starting a parish wellness program in her home parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Indianapolis. “The more resources that are available with the click of a button, the more access people will have.”

Margaret Haehl, a retired pharmacist and member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Shelby County who is hoping to start a health ministry in her parish, agreed.

“Through the [Catholic] Help Network, everything is so available,” she said. “There are so many different ministries that are out there that I had no clue about.”

Participants also gathered ideas from a display room with booths where vendors shared health ministry resources and project ideas.

One group displayed crocheted and knitted prayer shawls and blankets that are given to infants being baptized, people in nursing homes or those suffering illness.

“We made 150 prayer shawls in the last year-and-a-half,” said retired registered nurse Vicki Williams of Holy Cross Parish in Indianapolis. “It’s such a healing ministry. You can feel God’s presence around you, [and feel] that someone cares.”

Lisa Fleetwood, the faith community nursing coordinator for Community Health Network in Indianapolis, spoke at the retreat and encouraged the participants to make a difference.

“You can change the world,” said Fleetwood, a registered nurse. “What you do matters. What you do is an extension of your faith. You do it for, by and through Jesus. It brings glory to God.

“Healthy people can serve God, but poor health inhibits your ability to bring about God’s kingdom.”

Peggy Clegg, pastoral associate for health and senior ministry at St. Therese of the Infant Jesus (Little Flower) Parish in Indianapolis, sees an increasing need for pastoral health ministry.

“I think this is a growing trend in parishes,” she said. “As our society changes, I think more and more people will reach out to their own parish to find help.”

(Information on health ministry resources available through the archdiocesan Health Ministry can be found by logging on to www.archindy.org/plfl/ministries-health.html.)


Related story: Growing trend of parish health ministry seeks to promote wellness of body, mind and soul

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