Faith, healthcare and how to connect the two was the theme of the June 2 Spiritual Health, Physical Wellness virtual workshop. Almost 70 attendees, most of whom work in some form of healthcare or healthcare ministry, heard from health care professionals and clergy on various topics, including tools for taking care of yourself while caring for others, mental health first aid and end-of-life issues.
Dr. Oralia Garcia Dominic with Penn State College of Medicine spoke to attendees about some tools they and their families could use to maintain spiritual health and physical wellness. She told participants that it is important to remember that they are not alone and to use technology to remain connected.
Dr. Dominic also added that as front line responders, “you are helping someone. If you become burned out, that outreach is disrupted.”
Some of the tools Dr. Dominic discussed included using evidence-based strategies to lower your risk, working to achieve your own best health and wellness, following all recommended guidelines, maintaining a healthy weight, staying connected with your friends and families, keeping faith, and asking for help when you need it.
“You are not alone. There are communications and there are tools you can use,” said Dr. Dominic. “You have a network behind you.”
Changing gears, the workshop then focused on self-case and mental health. Dr. Bonita Adlestein Kozemchak spoke about her Sanctuary in Place program. She began this virtual program in March as a place for those who are fearful or those needing a safe place to express their thoughts on both the current pandemic and other fears.
“Whatever you are feeling, it doesn’t matter; tere is no bad feeling,” said Dr. Kozemchak. “As Christians and Catholics, how are we called to respond to this? What is our faith and moral compass? Where are we representing God? How are we being Jesus to others that we know and don’t know? At the end of this, what is your desire to be on the other side of this?”
Judy Newberger, the parish nurse for St. John the Baptist Parish in New Freedom, said that because of the pandemic and the closure of churches, she has been able to get to know the members of the parish much better.
“We talked to people (on the phone) to find out how they are doing,” said Newberger. “Sometimes we would match people up to get groceries. It was extremely fulfilling. Personally, it has been very rewarding and has helped me feel more comfortable navigating the pandemic.”
Deacon Steve Huete, from St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Orrtanna, shared that the pandemic has forced him to slow down and has allowed much more time for prayer.
“I’ve really enjoyed working at the church as a deacon,” he added. “When Father (Dominic DiBiccaro) says Mass and I assist, I’m very much aware that we are praying on behalf of the parish.”
John Noullet from Wellspan Philhaven, who led the mental health first aid session, told participants that mental health challenges are very common, possibly even more so than physical health emergencies that are addressed in a traditional first aid training. The challenge with mental health is overcoming the stigma around it.
“A lot of people that have a mental health diagnosis tend to suffer in silence,” said Noullet. “Mental health first aid is about helping someone who is developing a mental health challenge or experiencing a mental health crisis.”
Rounding out the day, Father Stephen Logue, STL, bioethicist for the Diocese, provided information on end-of-life issues.
“The human person is a union of body and soul, the physical and spiritual” said Father Logue, adding that while we are in the world, the world will hate us at times for our belief, including those regarding end of life. And that is okay.”
Through his presentation, Father Logue discussed Catholic teaching on euthanasia, proportionate versus non-proportionate means and ordinary versus extraordinary means, spiritual care at the end of life and care after death.
“Be the soul of the world,” said Father Logue. “Even when the world reacts with anger and hatred, we don’t respond in kind.”
The Spiritual Health, Physical Wellness workshop was sponsored by the Diocesan Health and Pastoral Care Ministry. For more information, please visit www.hbgdiocese.org/healthcare-ministry.
(Photos by Chris Heisey and Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Rachel Bryson, M.S., The Catholic Witness