How one parish helps its members with health care

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grouppichealthclass-webRecent graduates of the Take Control of Your Health class, part of Incarnation’s Health Ministry; the six-week interactive class is taught by two registered nurses.

Since 2000, Incarnation Church, Mantua’s Health Ministry has provided services, free of charge, to anyone who seeks their services.
In its work, accomplished by a group of health care professionals and volunteers, the ministry “seeks to promote the optimal health of the whole person,” according to their literature, “by promoting the physical, emotional and spiritual health of our parish community.”
The professionals and volunteers “give their time and treasure, and give back to the church community,” to those of all ages, said Kay Peters, coordinator of the health ministry.
After 40 years working in the healthcare field, as a registered nurse and as a clinical nurse specialist, Peters retired in 2000. But she soon felt called to help start a parish nursing ministry at Incarnation.
After speaking with then-parochial vicar, Father Paul Olszewski, a notice was put in the church bulletin about plans to start a health ministry.
“Several nurses, a doctor, a physical therapist and an EMT responded,” she said. “They were the original Health Ministry Advisory Board.”
Over the years, “every pastor at Incarnation, starting with Father Joseph Salerno, has been supportive of the ministry,” she said.
Currently, almost two dozen parishes in the diocese have similar ministries. The one at Incarnation is considered one of the most developed.
For those needing assistance, volunteers will drive them to doctor’s appointments, accompany them to the grocery store, or provide respite care, and spend time with the sick.
Parish nurses provide health education, personal health counseling, and advocacy for those needing health services. Once a month, these nurses assist with free blood pressure screenings during the parish’s Knight of Columbus breakfast.
As well, during parish events, such as at Family Fun Day or the Harvest Bazaar, nurses will set up booths offering flu shots; provide information on such topics as stress management, and taking medications; and facilitate games aimed at keeping the mind sharp. Younger visitors also learn proper handwashing techniques.
One to three days a week, seniors can take part in a stretch program led by a retired Marine officer.
The ministry also has a “Fishes and Loaves” initiative, in which volunteers prepare meals for parishioners who have been hospitalized, who are recovering from an illness, or who have lost a loved one.
Peters stresses that the parish nurses and other health professionals do not provide “hands-on” care, or act in place of a parishioner’s health care providers; however, they will make referrals to appropriate organizations and resources.
For Peters, just sitting down and talking with those she serves and sharing their faith is important.
“I ask them what their favorite prayer is, and ask them how their faith has helped them through difficult times,” she says. “It strengthens my own faith.”
Any member of Incarnation parish is eligible to receive the services of the Health Ministry. Services are free of charge. If you need help, or want to volunteer, call the rectory at 856-468-1314.