Participate in health ministry course


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — A six-day course for individuals interested in serving parish communities as a faith community nurse or parish health minister is being offered at Genesis Health through the Westberg Institute for Faith Community Nursing.

The program is for registered nurses, other health care professionals and lay people who want to learn more about bringing health, hope and healing to their faith community, said Jennifer Hildebrand. She coordinates Health Ministry for Genesis VNA & Hospice. Training will be held April 5, 6, 7 and May 3, 4, 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Genesis Health Center’s East Campus.

To become a parish nurse, an individual must first be a registered nurse with an unencumbered license in the state in which she or he practices. Training is also open to others who feel called to serve in health ministry. Those who complete all six courses this spring will be commissioned or anointed in their respective role, she noted. “Both need to be spiritually mature in their faith with an interest in tending to the intentional care of the spirit of each person. We address each person as an individual with individual needs of body, mind and spirit.


“Parish nurses and health ministers serve as a safety net for many of our elderly parishioners, many of whom have chosen to age in place in the comfort of their own home,” she said.

The role of parish nurses and health ministers varies by parish. St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf has a team of six or seven parish nurses and health ministers. “They have an active, faith-based Grief Share group in addition to offering home visits, education and wellness promotion, advocacy and care coordination,” Hildebrand said.

Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport “has a health minister and parish nurse team whom I often refer to as ‘the dynamic duo.’ Bonnie Bobet-Beyhl and Carol Burns complement one another in many ways and have an active ministry which has been in existence for many years.” The late Msgr. James Parizek, who served as pastor for many years, “had always been a strong supporter of parish nursing and was a charter member of the former Genesis Health Ministry Advisory Board,” Hildebrand said.

Local guest speakers with expertise in their fields are invited to speak at the institute this spring. Some of the modules include Healing and Wholeness, Ethical Issues, Advocacy, Transforming Life Issues-Family Violence, Accessing Resources and Loss, Suffering and Grief. The training combines presentations, group activities, prayer and experiential exercises. The institute will conclude with an anointing service on May 5.

Hildebrand said many people who have completed the institute find it more of a “retreat experience” than an academic course. “You cannot serve others until you become in touch with your own spirituality. Much of this course addresses this need and guides you on your spiritual journey.”

Even if the participant is not actively pursuing a position as a parish nurse or health minister, the institute helps to enhance the spiritual dimension of that participant’s practice or life, Hildebrand added.

Early bird registration is $225 until March 18, and $250 after that. The fee covers books, materials, course binder, C.E.U. processing for professionals, all breaks and a lapel pin. The course is offered annually through Genesis VNA.

To register or for more information go to

What is a parish nurse or faith community nurse?

A parish nurse is a registered nurse with an active license and specialized education who is called to ministry and affirmed by a faith community to promote health, healing and wholeness among its members. Recognizing the interconnectedness of body, mind and spirit, parish nurses promote wellness through health education, advocacy, spiritual support and by linking the needs of those they serve to resources in the greater community, health care system and their community of faith.

Parish nurse ministry is designed to involve people of all ages, families and faith communities as active partners in their personal health and wellness.

Parish nurses do not provide “hands on” nursing care such as dressing changes, dispensing medications or providing personal care.


What is a health advocate?

A health advocate works in conjunction with a parish nurse to promote health and wellness with a preventative focus, after completing this same specialized training.  It is suitable for any allied health professional interested in integrating spirituality, health and wholeness into their practice. In addition, this ministry is open to laypeople who feel called to serve those in their faith community in similar ways.

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