The following article appeared in the April 2018 issue of City Light News
When her mother’s mental and physical health began to decline, Maureen McReynolds sought community support and assistance to meet her mother’s care needs. A strong independent woman, her mother seemed to resent much of what was being offered. “During this time, while I tried very hard to help her, she resisted and resented me for my efforts. This caused me to realize I did not know how to relate to her well,” says McReynolds.
Eventually McReynolds’s mother and stepfather were offered rooms at a long-term care facility in Ottawa and it was here that McReynolds witnessed firsthand the beneficial effects of pastoral care on her mother’s overall health. There, she also recognized a need in herself to help not only her mother but other suffering people as well.
After several years in the technology field, Maureen made a career change. Previously employed as an administrator she went to Ambrose College to train as a pastoral care worker. Observing what Pastoral Care did for her mother led her to become involved with the Christian Pastoral Caregivers Association.
The Christian Pastoral Caregivers Association is an organization made up of clergy and laity who feel a calling to go out and minister to God’s people especially in times of illness and special need. Their mandate is to provide support and education to persons already involved in pastoral care as well as those who are volunteers, care aids, and health care professionals.
The Christian Pastoral Caregivers Association is made up of members who share the desire for excellence in pastoral care. Rev. Kenn Balzer, Chaplain and Coordinator of Pastoral Care says “The members come from all walks of life and we are always surprised when we find professionals who are interested in our work. Certainly, most of our people are volunteers, but health care professionals would be our second largest constituency.”
In cooperation with Rocky Mountain College in Calgary, the organization has established the Centre for Pastoral Care Education.
The Centre offers two courses. The first, ‘May I Sit with You Awhile’, is made up of six workshops designed to prepare hospital visitors for the ministry of pastoral care. This course teaches the basics of pastoral visiting and some of the topics included are defining pastoral care, developing listening skills, grief and loss, and ethics.
The second course, ‘Love at Last Breath’ is subtitled ‘Companioning at End of Life’. It encompasses the unique issues involved in ministering to people who are dying. McReynolds credits this course with helping her to better relate to her mother and commented that the course isn’t strictly for those who minister to the dying. “When I took ‘Love at Last Breath’, I found that much that was said about visiting someone who is dying relates directly to relating to anyone who is experiencing intense personal loss, whether that is due to changes in mental or physical health, or lifestyle,” she explains.
There are no prerequisites to taking these courses and the Christian Pastoral Caregivers Association wants to expand this training to include local churches. “It is our hope to be able to reach out the local churches - it seems that many churches have no training mechanism for their pastoral care teams. We feel that we can provide that”, explains Balzer. “In fact, the next phase of development of our courses is to make them available on-line through Rocky Mountain College for anyone - from those who are looking simply to audit the courses, to those who are looking for professional development, to those who are taking the courses for credit,” he says.
While a person does not need to be a member of the organization to take courses provided by the Centre, there are many benefits of membership. These include networking, online resources, training and development and leadership opportunities. Providing pastoral care is a very rewarding ministry. If this is something you feel called to do, then your first step should be to reach out to the Christian Pastoral Caregivers Association. They can be reached on their website at cpcassoc.ca or at 403-686-8152.
McReynolds’ mother has since passed away, but she continues to provide care to the sick and dying. She works as a caregiver with Home Instead and is the treasurer for the Christian Pastoral Caregivers Association.