Spiritual Care Week aka Pastoral Care Week was founded in 1985 by the Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings (COMISS) to “recognize spiritual care providers as well as the spiritual care given through professional chaplaincy and pastoral counseling within our communities” – not only within the United States, but throughout the world. Specifically, the objectives of COMISS are:
- To celebrate the education for, and practice of spiritual care through, professional chaplaincy and pastoral counseling.
- To interpret and promote pastoral care.
- To honor and celebrate all practitioners of pastoral care.
- To express appreciation to institutions and their staff who support pastoral care ministries.
- To publicize the work of pastoral care organizations affiliated with COMISS.
- To promote continuing education for clergy, laity, and institutional employees regarding the value of pastoral care.
In addition, every year COMISS spotlights a particular theme of spiritual care. This year’s theme is “Relevant and Responsive in Times of Crises,” which was brought to the forefront globally during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. During such challenging times, our spiritual caregivers have been more important than ever, providing much needed coping mechanisms for people to deal with stress, depression and grief. And ever flexible, our spiritual caregivers adjusted their ways to provide this counseling by offering alternatives to in-person meetings, including telehealth and conversations by phone.
At VNA, we did the same. Our bereavement counselors and chaplains were available to talk by phone to patients in need and support groups were set up in a virtual format. In addition, our biannual Ceremony of Remembrance where families traditionally met in-person for a group celebration of life service to memorialize their loves ones, was adjusted per the pandemic’s social distancing guidelines. Instead of meeting in a church or other spiritual center, the bereavement department created a Ceremony of Remembrance video that families contributed to by providing pictures of their loved ones who had passed away, as well as any significant personal memorabilia.
Let’s take this week to thank all the spiritual caregivers in our organizations, and in our lives, who provide such an important service. It is delicate work and requires compassion and empathy, two emotions that cannot be taught but rather are innate to the providers. That’s what so unique about spiritual caregivers, they are healers of the soul.