SASKATOON — Ethnic Diversity as a Mirror of God’s Creativity was explored June 11-14 during a national convention of the Canadian Association for Parish Nursing Ministry (CAPNM) held in Saskatoon.
Parish nurses from across Canada gathered at Queen’s House for the event, which included plenary speakers, concurrent sessions and an annual general meeting.
The gathering was an opportunity to network with parish nurses from across the country who share common experiences serving within their particular churches and faith-based communities, said Carol Kostiuk, a parish nurse in Saskatoon who served on the organizing committee.
“Parish nursing is vastly different from nursing as the general public view nursing, and so we welcome and look forward to this once-a-year gathering to nurture each other, brainstorm, celebrate joys and successes as well as failures and disappointments, so we can take what we have learned and go forward for the upcoming year,” Kostiuk said.
CAPNM’s definition of a parish nurse is “a registered nurse with specialized knowledge, who is called to ministry and affirmed by a faith community to promote health, healing and wholeness.” The role of a parish nurse is to promote the integration of faith and health in the context of a parish or faith community in areas such as health advocacy, health counselling, health education and resource referral. The annual conference is the organization’s one national educational event of the year, Kostiuk noted, pointing to the pertinence of this year’s theme, focused on ethnic diversity. “We are all experiencing having to bridge cultural differences.”
Throughout the conference, participants were invited to appreciate ethnic diversity as it relates to spirituality and healing, and to discuss various roles of parish nurses and ongoing needs in their churches.
“Our conference objectives included exploring ethnic diversity in all of the genres presented by our guest speakers, sharing innovative ideas in the practice of parish nurse ministry, and providing opportunities for parish nurses/clergy and congregational members to network,” Kostiuk said.
The event also provided “time for self care through fun, laughter and fellowship,” she added.
“Our worship services interspersed throughout the four days gave participants a time of peace, spiritual nourishment, a time to gather together in thanksgiving, gratefulness and prayer.”
Plenary speakers at the conference were theologian and storyteller Megan McKenna, telling stories woven through various cultures; Bishop Emeritus Sylvain Lavoie, OMI, reflecting on First Nations’ spirituality; and Lutheran Pastor Ali Toti, discussing the interplay between faith and health.
Other conference highlights included patient testimonials from the perspective of three courageous women of different ethnic backgrounds (South Sudan, Congo and First Nations) and a theme song composed for the conference by author and song writer Alison Uitti, who led a session on cultural diversity and sensitivity in the school system.
Other concurrent sessions included Rev. Mark Miller, CSsR, discussing ethical issues and awareness of different cultural practices; Michelle O’Rourke exploring end-of-life spiritual care across many cultures; Rev. Patrick Ampani, a Nigerian Catholic priest serving in the Diocese of Saskatoon, talking about cultural awareness and integration; and Denise Heppner, speaking on advocacy for victims of human trafficking.
A Parish Nurse Walkathon held during the conference raised some $3,000 toward education of parish nurses.