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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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Pio of Pietrelcina: In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul's pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter's Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. "This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching," said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio's witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to "a privileged path of sanctity." 
<p>Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease. </p><p>Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice (1898-1903 and 1910-17) his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income. </p><p>At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic. </p><p>On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924. </p><p>Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned. </p><p>Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This "House for the Alleviation of Suffering" has 350 beds. </p><p>A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters. </p><p>One of Padre Pio’s sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999.</p> American Catholic Blog In times of intense loss and grief, we take our place with Mary as she embraces all our grief in her own as she is silently holding in her arms the stark presence of our suffering God in the lifeless body of her Son.

 
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