When I began my work as a Parish Nurse, I expected to focus on mind and body and spirit with workshops and educational sessions and advocacy. While those functions have proved to be indeed needed, others became apparent early on.
Our parish was rich with human potential – but it was often difficult for those in need to know who to call when they needed help. Individual parishioners were informally helping one another but these few bore the majority of the burden. Because of this, others were wary of volunteering.
We had a couple in the Parish who were both dealing with serious health and life issues. The husband was getting radiation for throat cancer and the wife had just had an esophagectomy and was being tube fed. I visited and offered prayer, support and explanations of their medications and conditions. The husband did not cook and ate takeout food every night. At the end of one visit I asked the husband, “What else can we do to help you?” He replied, “Can you feed me?” He meant literally.
So I began to organize an in-reach ministry that we call “Share the Care”. It was an effort to organize our ability to do basic tasks to help people get through the day. This organizational scheme allows persons to volunteer for only what they feel comfortable doing and gives them permission to decline if they feel unable to take on tasks. We were able to recruit over 40 volunteers so the burden is shared by many.
Each team has a designated leader who coordinates the efforts. The ministries include transportation to doctor’s appointments and other trips as necessary. The Manna ministry has two parts, one to bring meals to those who cannot cook and also meals to new mothers. My pastoral care team visits the hospitals regularly and also visits those who cannot get to church. The shawl ministry makes lap blankets for those in wheelchairs, prayer shawls, Mommy-Baby shawls (large enough to accommodate the mother as she holds/ nurses her baby). A new project was instituted to make baptismal blankets for all those baptized at St. Anne’s. These are labeled “With love and prayers from St. Anne’s Parish” and are blessed by our priest at the baptismal workshop.
This method has allowed many to contribute and enriched our sense of community. As the faith community nurse, it has been a pleasure to work with so many dedicated volunteers.
Cynthia D. Steele, RN, MPH is the Faith Community Nurse (FCN) at St. Anne’s Parish located in Annapolis Maryland. Before becoming a coming a FCN, she spent over 25 years in academic medicine at Johns Hopkins University Medical systems specializing in the care of those with Alzheimer’s disease. She has also authored over 90 articles in medical/nursing journals in addition to publishing three books.