St. Patrick Parish in Victor recently joined the growing ranks of parishes that believe the church is uniquely positioned — and indeed called — to care for its parishioners’ physical health as well as their spiritual well-being.
In June the parish formed a new Health and Wellness Ministry, which intends to provide parishioners with the education, information and support they need in order to live physically, emotionally and spiritually fulfilling lives, according to the ministry’s mission statement. The ministry held its first event Oct. 18, when a registered health-information administrator gave a presentation about personal-health records.
The idea for the new ministry was born several months ago when St. Patrick’s pastor, Father Tim Niven, told Ruth Anne Dupre-Trippe, pastoral minister, that he was looking for ways the parish could reach out to people dealing with chronic illness. Dupre-Trippe and several other interested parishioners then met with Pat Klees, health-care minister and faith-community nurse at St. Thomas More Parish in Brighton.
After learning more about what the Brighton parish was doing, members of the new Health and Wellness Ministry team put together a mission statement and set of goals. They decided the ministry would focus primarily on educating parishioners and providing them with resources, said Dupre-Trippe, one of the ministry’s coordinators.
At the same time, the parish also formed another ministry — called the Assisi Ministry — through which parish volunteers help the chronically ill or recently bereaved with their physical needs, such as cooking, transportation and light housekeeping, Dupre-Trippe said.
“To me, I see it as two branches of the same thing. (We’re) giving support to people, through direct, hands-on ways or through education and information,” she said.
In the meantime, members of the Health and Wellness Ministry team put together a survey to find out what parishioners expected from the new ministry and what health-related topics they’d like to learn more about, she added.
“We felt like we should do a survey to see what the church community wanted us to do, because sometimes (a committee’s) ideas are not like theirs,” said Monica Barry-Hamann, a registered nurse and co-coordinator of the ministry. The ministry team is made up in part by health-care professionals, educators and social workers, but the team wanted to make sure it also had input from people with objective views of health care, she said.
The survey was included in parish bulletins for a few weeks during the summer. Parishioners were asked to choose their top five health concerns from a list that included such problems as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, lung disease and diabetes. They also were asked to indicate whether they were comfortable with their knowledge of health-care issues and whether they were able to take care of themselves, find transportation to medical appointments, and felt comfortable talking to health-care providers.
Parishioners also were asked to list any health-related spiritual concerns they had, such as anger, forgiveness, depression, grief or inability to let go of certain issues, Dupre-Trippe said. After reviewing the 30 surveys that were returned, team members learned that many parishioners were interested in learning more about weight control, nutrition, exercise and heart disease, as well as Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, cancer, high blood pressure, depression, parenting skills, anger and inability to let go of things and move on, Dupre-Trippe said.
Members of the ministry team decided to launch the new ministry with an introductory presentation about a topic relevant to everyone. On Oct. 11, 25 parishioners came to the parish center to hear Gail Woytek talk about personal-health records. A personal-health record can include everything from a list of one’s medications and herbal supplements to one’s medical history and exercise routine, said Helen Sherman, a member of the ministry team.
“Gail talked about the importance of maintaining one’s own health records and taking personal responsibility for your health records,” said Sherman, a registered nurse and director of Ontario County’s Office for the Aging. “She said the responsibility for this really lies with each and every one of us.”
Things have become rather chaotic in the health-care profession in recent years, Barry-Hamann said. Most people have several doctors, these doctors are increasingly busy and rushed, and the insurance companies often seem to be mandating what doctors can or cannot do. These factors combine to make it even more imperative for individuals to be assertive and well-informed about their own health-care needs, she said.
The Health and Wellness Ministry team members hope to present more educational talks in the future. They also hope to set up in the church racks of health-related brochures and to make themselves available to anyone who needs more health-related information.
“It’s just reaching out and helping people and giving them the ammunition that they need to get through life,” Sherman said.