Health ministry welcomes new director

Franciscan Sister of the Holy Family Pat Clemen

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Franciscan Sister of the Holy Family Pat Clemen said she feels like she has come full circle as she starts her new position as Catholic Charities’ coordinator for Parish Health Ministry. Sister Clemen has worked in healthcare her entire career, but almost always in the public sector. Her most recent job was as a quality control director for a home health agency, training home health nurses and auditing paperwork as well as making some home visits herself.
Her religious community provides grant money to Catholic Charities to support a human trafficking awareness program. Dorothy Balser oversees both the human trafficking and parish health ministry. One day the women were chatting and Balser mentioned that Charities was going to need a new director for the parish health ministry. Sister Clemen said the timing was perfect.
“It was really just amazing,” said Balser. “It seemed the timing was right; she had the passion and interest and we had the space. I think she will be able to provide a broader view for the whole diocese and build on what Ann Elizabeth (Kaiser, the previous director) had been doing,” Balser continued.
“My first task is to meet with parishes – maybe starting at a deanery level – to educate them about what the parish health ministry program is and what a Faith Community Nurse (FCN) is,” said Sister Clemen. She said many parishes have programs, but she would love to see it continue to spread.
Sister Clemen is getting in touch with the more than a dozen FCNs already in the diocese as she recruits more. “The focus of a community health nurse is the intentional care of the spirit,” said Sister Clemen. “I do believe Faith Community Nurses are valuable to a parish. I see them using a blend of spirituality and wellness prevention as part of a holistic model. They would offer prevention, support and navigation,” she added. Lay volunteers could assist with much of the work so a parish without an FCN could still have a health ministry. Sister Clemen’s office has resources and can help train and coordinate a ministry or the certification of an FCN.
The ministry might look different in different parishes. Some FCNs might offer lectures on disease prevention or basic health screenings. Other communities might put together a team to offer wellness activities such as a walking club. In still other settings, FCNs might help someone navigate the healthcare system, helping them find resources such as a living will or education about the disease process. The program uses a set of indicators to help communities and individuals evaluate their overall wellness.
“My mission statement for myself is to promote health and wellness and prevent disease in mind, body and spirit for all those we serve,” said Sister Clemen. She is grateful to St. Dominic Hospital for the grant that makes the program possible. Balser and Sister Clemen met with the founder of the Parish Health Ministry program, Mary Patterson, and Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth, OP, of St. Dominic Foundation, to talk about the grant and the future of the program. Sister Dorothea told the group she would like to see all parishes have access to this idea of holistic healthcare.
Sister Clemen would love to hear from any pastor or lay ecclesial minister interested in establishing a parish health ministry by phone at 601-213-6378 or email at