The Process of Learning About Parish-Clinic Connections
Where will we find a church that heals?
The ten Catholic churches visited across the state of West Virginia were from various regions as were the health clinics visited to explore if there was a connection between the clinic and the parish.
All parishes offered some health-filled services. Wellness promotion was limited, but included:
• Participation in the annual Heart Walk as a parish,
• Health Fairs and screenings
• Yoga classes
• Religious leading by example,
• Grief and loss workshops presented annually and coordinated by the Parish Nurse,
• A quilting club for socialization,
• A monthly parish dinner after Mass,
• A “Story Hour” for children which includes education about hand washing, dental care, and also promotes literacy.
• Homilies that address self care,
• Parishioners who regularly visit the sick,
• Opening parish facilities to groups such as AA or youth,
• Providing food, clothing and prescription requests.
Accessibility to medical care was identified as a major concern but only a few churches had means for providing transportation. Parishes did recognize a lack of knowledge of available health services as well as lack of awareness about health and wellness issues which were also highly evident in the focus groups and the questionnaire responses.
The relationship with the local free or reduced cost clinics varied from owning the building, providing financial resources for dental care. In some situation there was no relationship between the parish and the health clinic. One priest serves on the board of the clinic, a few parishioners are employed by the clinic; some volunteer. Some parishes do make referrals to the clinic when appropriate. The clinic raised the idea for better cooperation with the Ministerial Association. In addition some clinics may refer people to Pastors for pastoral care.
Parishes provide a variety of programs for youth, including:
• Boys Club meetings,
• Support for the DARE program
• Integration of the “40 Assets” of character development for youth which protects children from high risk behaviors and develops positive attitudes and behaviors
• Support for the STAR program to promote a healthy environment
Seven of ten parishes said they did not have health education programs for adults. Most relied on community agencies to fill this need. However, parish leaders were able to envision ways in which they could do things to support and educate others in the future.
Where Will We Find A Church That Heals?
When asked about incorporating holistic care (care of mind, body, and spirit) into the parish ministry, four said it was mentioned in homilies and a few said religious educations for youth and adults was seen as holistic. Regular Mass participation and receiving the sacraments was seen as a common holistic experience.
As parishes described the ideal situation for promoting overall wellness, these ideas emerged:
• The concept of Parish nursing
• Advocacy for the less fortunate
• Bulletin announcements about community offerings and special topics about health
• Improving local economy and job market
• Supporting services for prescription assistance
• Formation for those visiting the sick
• Advocacy and training for ATV safety
The parish visits indicate that though there is some relationship between clinics and parishes, it is limited. The need to do more is great. Creating the vision for partnerships is an opportunity for communities throughout the state to share in the healing and evangelization described so well in Luke’s Gospel.
We as members of the body of Christ can no longer, however, afford to let our fellow family members and neighbors wait until they are broken for us to reach out and attempt to support their health. As a Church that heals, we must renew Luke’s call to the ministry of health and well-being.