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October 24, 2023

Compassion in action: It's Spiritual Care Week


Published by: CHI Living Communities

Each year in October Catholic Healthcare organizations celebrate and recognize Spiritual Care providers during Spiritual Care Week.  Catholic Healthcare as a whole, and CommonSpirit in particular, makes the care of the whole person a priority. In such care attention is given to all the aspects of a person’s wellbeing; physical, mental, emotional, relational and spiritual.  Very often these aspects overlap and are correlated to each other. In residential care, such as senior care, these components of wellbeing are even more important in our care plans because we are talking about giving care over time, often measured in years. 

The Spiritual Care Approach

Spiritual Care at our campuses is provided by a team approach. Most often led by Mission Integration staff, we also count on, and partner with, our interdisciplinary teams, local clergy and faith communities, as well as with in house and community volunteers.  We are blessed to have many partners who work with us to make sure residents receive the support and care they need to be connected to the beliefs, traditions and rituals that give them meaning and hope. 

Spiritual Care and Religious Care

Spiritual Care is often conflated with religious care.  While religious belief is central to the experience of many of our residents, Spiritual Care embraces and supports residents within and beyond denominational identities.  Connecting people to their sense of  meaning is central to the work.  We all have multiple sources of meaning in our lives.  Some people describe their sense of hope and meaning in the language and experience of organized religion, others might use the language of nature or relationships.  There are many and diverse spiritual expressions embraced by the people we serve.  Age, culture, family dynamics, life experiences of loss and joy, and more, all play a part in forming our spiritual identities.  And they are evolving.  What gives someone deep meaning at 30 may look very different from what they find meaningful at 80.  Spiritual conversations are ongoing.  They are never “one and done”.  Taking the time to ask and listen to residents about what matters most to them is the foundation of what Spiritual Care providers do.

Spiritual Care Provider Qualifications

Our Spiritual Care providers have specialized training and education to prepare them to serve the needs of residents of all and no faith traditions.  Many of our providers are board certified chaplains.  Board certification is conferred from a small number of qualifying organizations such as The Association of Professional Chaplains (APC), The National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC) and The National Association of Jewish Chaplains (NAJC).  Certification requirements include a Masters degree in theology or related field, endorsement from a recognized faith group, and completion of four units of clinical pastoral education (CPE).  Clinical pastoral education units include both classroom education and supervised clinical experience or residency usually totally 1-2 years.  Once that training is completed chaplain candidates must complete 2,000 hours of documented work in a clinical setting. Upon completion candidates appear before a peer committee to demonstrate professional competency through written materials and an interview.  Continuing education for board certified chaplains (BCC) is 50 CEUs annually.  Chaplains must recertify every 5 years.  In short, it takes some real commitment!

The Role of Our Spiritual Care Providers

Our Spiritual Care providers and volunteers offer care through many different means.  They complete assessments of our long term nursing residents, and function as part of the interdisciplinary team.  They facilitate religious services, devotionals, sacraments, opportunities for reflection and inquiry, they provide support through bereavement and end of life. They engage residents in conversations about what matters most to them.  They serve all levels of care and  offer support and encouragement to the families of our residents. In addition to care given to our residents, Spiritual Care providers are available to come alongside employees who are struggling or in crisis to offer support and resources.  

The theme of this year’s National Spiritual Care week is “It’s Healthy to Get Help!”  We are proud to partner with our mental health providers to foster and encourage mental health and wellness for all.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, troubled or discouraged, the Spiritual Care team on your campus is here to support you. Please reach out. 

Oftentimes a Spiritual Care provider will tell you the most important ministry they provide each day is to be available and to listen. To journey alongside and be present to those with whom we serve.  The mission of CommonSpirit is to “bring the healing presence of God to the people we serve”.  The Spiritual Care team is privileged to partner with the care team in bringing that mission to life!

We pray in gratitude for chaplains and those who provide Spiritual Care. May they know themselves to be a part of a ministry that has existed before them and will outlast them. May that knowledge allow them to do the good work of their vocation with full hearts and unfettered spirits. Amen.
        -The Catholic Health Association