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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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Augustine of Hippo: A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: Many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience. 
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