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The Importance of Parish Nurses View Comments

Sister Karen Zielinski, OSF


Many churches and faith-based institutions are offering their members help to keep their bodies in shape with spiritual guidance. In a program called “Light Weigh” at St. Joseph Parish in Sylvania, Ohio, people are looking at food and their eating patterns with a spiritual attitude.

Laurie Neary, RN, of the St. Joseph Parish Nurse Program, hosted this faith-based weight-control program for parishioners several years ago. Light Weigh is a Scriptureand faith-based program to lose weight. It is just one of the ways Neary helps parishioners with their minds and spirits—as well as their bodies.

She and other parish nurses give witness to the healing mission of Jesus to individuals, families, and the community. Their work is rooted in the deep religious belief of the Catholic Church.

Parish nursing programs across the country advocate a holistic understanding of health—that physical wellness is connected with spiritual and emotional well-being. These programs also stress that faith communities should serve one another by providing access to a health ministry in their own parish.

What Does a Parish Nurse Do?

Does your parish have a nurse?

Can you ask your parish board about starting a nurse ministry?

What programs could enhance your spirituality and health?

According to St. Joseph’s website (stjoesylvania.org), parish nurse duties include:

Health educator: promotes an understanding of the relationship among lifestyle, attitudes, faith, and well-being by offering educational programs or information to the parishioners.

Health counselor: discusses health issues and problems with parishioners. Neary also visits parishioners who are homebound or in long-term care facilities. Hospital visitation is currently done by the deacons and priests.

Referral liaison: acts as a liaison to other congregational resources.

Volunteer coordinator: recruits and coordinates volunteers within the congregation.

That’s why Neary offered the 12-week weight-loss program. Taking care of our bodies is a fundamental part of being good stewards of God’s creation—us! She also holds “Lunch and Learn” meetings, where health speakers address a group; helps dispense annual flu shots; holds health fairs; and coordinates an anointing Mass on All Souls’ Day.

Faithful Medicine

We take good care of our cars and our lawns, but we often neglect something more precious, more critical than any vehicle or landscape design: our bodies.

According to Neary, “The role of the parish nurse is to be a health counselor and educator as well as a resource who can help facilitate referrals of resources to parishioners.”

Parish nurses take their ministry seriously. They blend health with spirituality. And that’s faithful medicine!


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Jeanne Jugan: 
		<p>Born in northern France during the French Revolution—a time when congregations of women and men religious were being suppressed by the national government, Jeanne would eventually be highly praised in the French academy for her community's compassionate care of elderly poor people.</p>
		<p>When Jeanne was three and a half years old, her father, a fisherman, was lost at sea. Her widowed mother was hard pressed to raise her eight children (four died young) alone. At the age of 15 or 16, Jeanne became a kitchen maid for a family that not only cared for its own members, but also served poor, elderly people nearby. Ten years later, Jeanne became a nurse at the hospital in Le Rosais. Soon thereafter she joined a third order group founded by St. John Eudes (August 19).</p>
		<p>After six years she became a servant and friend of a woman she met through the third order. They prayed, visited the poor and taught catechism to children. After her friend's death, Jeanne and two other women continued a similar life in the city of Saint-Sevran. In 1839, they brought in their first permanent guest. They began an association, received more members and more guests. Mother Marie of the Cross, as Jeanne was now known, founded six more houses for the elderly by the end of 1849, all staffed by members of her association—the Little Sisters of the Poor. By 1853 the association numbered 500 and had houses as far away as England.</p>
		<p>Abbé Le Pailleur, a chaplain, had prevented Jeanne's reelection as superior in 1843; nine year later, he had her assigned to duties within the congregation, but would not allow her to be recognized as its founder. He was removed from office by the Holy See in 1890. </p>
		<p>By the time Pope Leo XIII gave her final approval to the community's constitutions in 1879, there were 2,400 Little Sisters of the Poor. Jeanne died later that same year, on August 30. Her cause was introduced in Rome in 1970, and she was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2009. </p>
		<p> </p>
American Catholic Blog A mother journeys with her children all the way through their lives. She does not abandon her maternal mission when they are grown, though that mission certainly takes on different characteristics. The Church, too, accompanies us every step of the way. While baptism gives us birth into the Church, the other sacraments in their own way also nurture our souls as needed.

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