Health ministers reflect on faith


By Anne Marie Amacher

Father Tim Sheedy, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf, blesses parish nurses and trained health ministers during Mass Sept. 29.

BETTENDORF — Nurses and other health ministers recently had an opportunity to reflect on how their Catholic faith meshes with the parish nurse and trained health minister program and the resources available to them.
The reflecting took place Sept. 29 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf, where nine parish nurses and trained health ministers in the Diocese of Davenport had gathered to participate in a program titled “Understanding Your Catholic Faith.” IlaMae Hanisch, diocesan coordinator of Ministry Formation and of Adult Family Formation, led the program.
Hanisch asked the health ministers “how does your Catholic faith influence your ministry as a parish nurse? What are some core beliefs that sustain you? What are some core beliefs that challenge you?”
Individuals were to write down their answers and then share — if they wanted to.
She then distributed cards listing five of the six models of the Church that the late Cardinal Avery Dulles developed in his book titled “The Models of the Church.” He identified the six dimensions of active parish life as: Catholic (institution), Community (mystical communion), Sacrament, Engage/Evangelize (herald), Servant and Disciples of Christ (community of disciples).
“If you were given $10,000 to use in these ministries, how would you rank those ministries?” Hanisch asked. Divided into pairs, the participants ranked the ministries. Rankings varied widely.
Next Hanisch talked about the six faith stages from James Fowler’s Faith Development Theory. “How do these stages of faith have an impact on how you relate with others in your ministry as a parish nurse or health advocate?”
Stage one refers to the very basics of faith. “Typically children fit in this category,” one group said.
In stage two, people know there is a God, that there is good and bad and they follow the rules.
Stage three is what cradle Catholics typically fall into. Community is important and they feel invited.
Stage four is where people ask why. Teens and college students tend to fall into this category as they begin their lives away from home. “They ask tough questions and deep questions,” another group said.
Stage five is where people broaden their views. They have a different vision and a more universal faith. They believe that Catholics aren’t the only souls in heaven.
Achieving stage six is rare, Hanisch said. It is “universalizing faith.” People at this stage see people, such as public figures, as “holy.”
Hanisch then gave the health ministers a list of resources to use in their ministry such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Code of Canon Law, Scriptures and liturgical documents.
“Our mission is the mission of Jesus Christ and it is ultimately about right relationships with God,” Hanisch said.
Following the session the parish nurses and health ministers shared what they have done in their parishes.
Thennes talked about the walking program that Lourdes, Holy Family Parish in Davenport, Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire and St. Ann Parish in Long Grove participated in this summer. Carol Burns, parish nurse at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport, said she hopes her parish can join and would love to see it go diocesan wide. She noted this type of program shows another side of parish nursing — promoting healthy lifestyles.
Hanisch said activities such as a parish walking program also provide an opportunity to network. Other topics covered during the event included continuing education, support meetings, prayer shawl ministry and wellness committees.
The day began with Mass. Father Tim Sheedy, Lourdes’ pastor, blessed the health ministry providers at the end of Mass. At the gathering he said he has been a supporter of parish nursing since 1987 when he was involved in the parish nurse program’s early stages through Trinity Medical Center. “I taught classes,” he said.
He encourages pastors to consider adding a parish nurse or trained health minister to their parishes. “It enhances your parish,” he said, inviting pastors with questions to call him.
Kent Ferris, diocesan director of social action and of Catholic Charities, said “this is an incredibly important ministry.”

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