Responding to the call to holistic health in parishes


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
12 anointed after Community Nursing Class

Graduates of the Genesis Health Ministry Nursing Class of 2014, front, from left, are: Suzie Conner, Alicia Owens, Chris McCormick Pries; second row: Laura Gizicki, Connie Ferrell, Susie Harris; third row: Marla Brundies, Deb Morse, Helen Dorr, Mary Ann Ledger, Roseanna Karbacka, Erling Larson III (chaplain); back row: Jennifer Hildebrand (coodinator) and Tracy Mars.

Throughout Scripture God calls people of faith to healing, and Catholics in the Diocese of Davenport are among those responding to God’s call today.
Five members of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf and three members of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield joined four other individuals to form the 2014 Genesis Foundation in Faith Community Nursing Class in Dav­enport. The 35-hour course, conducted over several days, prepares registered nurses and/or health ministers to develop or participate in the healing ministry of a faith community. Participants completed the program March 22 with a dedication ceremony they designed and at which they were anointed by retired physician and volunteer chaplain Erling Larson III.

“Eight nurses were anointed as Faith Community Nurses and one physical therapy assistant, one LPN, and two social workers were anointed as Health Ministers,” said Jennifer Hildebrand, coordinator of Health Ministry for Genesis. “It is my hope and prayer that as we continue to grow this ministry, we will be recognized as key players in providing healing of body, mind and spirit in our faith communities,” added Hildebrand, a member of Our Lady of the River Parish, LeClaire.

“The service possibilities of a Faith Community Nurse are endless,” remarked Connie Ferrell, a retired nursing home administrator and member of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield. She decided to keep her RN license active after learning about the Community Nursing class in her parish bulletin. “I felt my nursing experience could be a benefit as a faith community nurse.”
Ferrell recalled how she spent several months last year in a wheel chair because of a leg-related health issue. Her husband, Glenn, and other family members were a big help. “But many people don’t have that support and this experience made me more empathetic,” she said.


Fellow parishioner Roseann Karbacka, a retired RN with a background in medical-surgical nursing, hospice and nursing education became interested in parish nursing about six years ago while attending a conference. She learned more at a gathering of parish nurses last fall at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf. There she met Hildebrand, whose enthusiasm for parish nursing was contagious, Karbacka added.

St. Mary-Fairfield’s pastor, Father Nick Adam, agreed to send Karbacka, Ferrell and Mary Ann Ledger to class after publicizing the program in the parish bulletin. “The prospect of bringing this ministry to St. Mary’s and possibly to some of the other churches in town is awesome!” Karbacka said. Through her participation in class with wonderful, caring, compassionate women, “I learned that I have something more to do on this earth. I’m not always sure where I’m being led, but I know that the Holy Spirit is leading the way! I hope to be able to minister to those parishioners who are in need.”

Faith, family and nursing are the three big things in Ledger’s life. She felt drawn to the class. “I thought God was reaching out to me to try something different,” the Jefferson County Public Health nurse said. She looks forward to incorporating the spirituality component of parish nursing with her nursing knowledge to help families looking for resources in caring for loved ones. “I’m keeping the door open to what the good Lord directs me to do.” Ledger says it will be easy working with the other two nurses from her parish, and they will be speaking with Fr. Adam about how to proceed.

“As a nurse, spirituality has always been important to me. That’s part of holistic care and that’s what nurses are taught,” said Chris McCormick Pries, a mental health nurse practitioner and member of St. John Vianney Parish. She and four other parishioners (Helen Dorr, Laura Gizicki, Deb Morse and Alicia Owens) participated in the class. “One of the things this faith community nursing process does is to bring in people who have very similar goals, but approach these goals very differently. If you look at the five of us from St. John Vianney, we are all very different but together we bring very different talents and ways of reaching people.”

She especially appreciated the class’s component on prayer, which “opened my mind to the different ways to look at prayer that had not been part of my habit.” Another important component for her was a presentation on grief and loss by Chaplain Larson, who reminded participants that people don’t experience grief and loss in the same stages. The third component of class that resonated with her was the dedication ceremony. “Each class does its own commissioning; it’s a personal experience liturgically and experientially for each group.”

Owens, a social worker by profession, said she was pleased to learn that the class had been expanded to include other health care professionals like her.

“Over my career I have worked in the acute hospital setting, outpatient rehabilitation and home care. When working in home care I realized indeed, that is where the real healing takes place; you are a guest in their home and their surroundings … that is where the person draws strength from.

“Our medical settings are quickly changing; we will always need to have different levels of care; what each level of care needs is that spirituality component, but, usually due to the tight schedules, etc., that is the piece that gets minimum attention,” Owens said. “We are all struggling in our own way, so to be able to offer compassion and love to others in our parish community is a wonderful gift.”

Owens, who also serves as the Davenport Diocese’s victim assistance coordinator, notes that “We need the support of others, and have the promise of God’s presence and power. The whole Church received the commission to heal (Mark 16:14-18). All are to be involved according to personal abilities and resources.”
She and her classmates from St. John Vianney hope to bring the faith community nursing program to their parish.
“We can help form the health cabinet; those of who are not going to do parish nursing directly have the experience and the knowledge about what this program is so we can advocate for that in the parish,” McCormick Pries said.

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1 thought on “Responding to the call to holistic health in parishes

  1. Dear Friends: I am a retired parish nurse and still helping in our church. I am preparing a little service or ceremony for dedication and anointing of our parish nurses. Would it be possible for me to have a copy of your service or your ideas to help me prepare?
    Bless you all for all you do in your congregations. Patricia

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