History of the Parish Nurse Ministries

A brief look back at our past…

  • The Parish Nurse Institute of Western New York (our first name) was formed by a group of Registered Professional Nurses who met in May 2001 while attending the first Basic Parish Nurse Preparation Education course offered in Western New York.  The program was sponsored by Niagara University College of Nursing and Marquette University.

  • It was the hope of the charter members that this organization would provide a means through which various parish nurses and wellness ministry programs could join together to rekindle the healing ministry of the Church.  By the end of the summer of 2001, the charter group was meeting regularly and the organization was founded.

  • God has blessed this group of dedicated nurses with wonderful opportunities starting with the offer to provide us with our first home.  St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church located at 4007 Main Street, Eggertsville, New York became our regular gathering place.  The hospitality of that faith community will never be forgotten by the early pioneers.

  • Since August 2004, nurses have been educated to perform the role of the Parish Nurse or Faith Community Nurse.  Every year, a weeklong retreat model is used to present the International Parish Nurse Resource Center’s Basic Parish Nurse Preparation curriculum.  In 2009, the name was changed to the Foundations in Faith Community Nursing curriculum in order to keep pace with the evolving role.  Nurses come together at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, New York to discern their answer to the call to parish nurse ministry. Beginning in 2014, an additional model was implemented to accommodate the needs of interested nurses.  Since then, a weekend retreat model and weekend model are open for all interested registered professional nurses.  Trocaire College is our academic affiliate, a partnership that began with the delivery of the first course.  The program’s success is made possible by the generous donation and support of time and expertise of individuals who believe in this ministry. Of note is the fact that our program hosted our first international participant from Toronto, Canada in 2013.  We also received an Invitation to take our program “on the road” that year.

  • Acknowledging the importance of accessibility of this educational program, the organization concluded that an additional faculty coordinator should be added and sponsored that preparation; the first faculty coordinator’s educational preparation was funded by Trocaire College of Buffalo.
  • November 2003 marks the date when the Inter-Church Parish Nurse Program, Inc., the Center for Hospice and Palliative Care, Trocaire College of Buffalo and the PNMNY came together to begin planning the organization’s first annual conference which was held in February 2004.  Its title, “To Live Life Abundantly” was certainly a prophetic vision in light of the fact that since that time, an almost yearly seminar/workshop has been held.  In 2005 – “Finding the Abundant Life…Forgiveness:  Essential in the Journey Toward Wholeness” was held with co-sponsors Tender Loving Care Staff Builders Home Health Care and Trocaire College; in 2006- “Discover Your Divine Design”, in 2007 “Healer Take Care of Yourself”, sponsored with St. John’s Lutheran Church in West Seneca, New York, Ken Howe Funeral Homes and Trocaire College; and in 2008 –“Finding the Abundant Life…Even in the Face of Death” was held with sponsorship from Upstate New York Transplant Services and the Center for Hospice and Palliative Care, Buffalo.  We took a respite in 2009 but then in 2010, “Finding the Abundant Life…As Stewards of God’s Creation” was held.  With renewed energy, another conference, “Finding the Abundant Life…Dialogue with the Divine “, was held in April 2013. “Finding the Abundant Life…With Compassionate Conversation” was the November 2015 conference theme. Again, it was through the generosity of faithful supporters from within the community and the help of our family and friends that we have been blessed with the resources to continue these educational and spiritual learning experiences.

  • In the spring of 2005, the organization embarked on the next part of its journey when we were introduced to the Pauline Fathers and Brothers at Corpus Christi RC Church in Buffalo, New York.  The mission of both the parish nurses and the religious congregation were congruent in their hopes of establishing an inner-city presence to care for God’s people.  At the beginning of the summer of 2005 and through the spring of 2006, work was begun to prepare a sacred space to house the organization’s resource center.  After many long hours of work by the nurses and their family and friends, coupled with a lot of creative thinking, a dedication ceremony was held.  The purpose of the Center is to provide a place where members could come to gather information and network in order to expand their own parish nurse ministries.  Eventually, the hope was to open the Center to the community at large as a means of outreach.  In the summer of 2011, discussions began with the P2 Collaborative of WNY to begin to make this idea a reality.  The Resource Center is the gathering place for Parish Nurses from across WNY.  Every other month, the old convent building on the grounds of Corpus Christi is open for education, peer support, networking, and spiritual enrichment.  On some weekends, the Center is staffed by one of the organization’s members who insure that resources are available for parish nurses who need them. 

  • Weekend retreats are held annually and planned to support the Parish Nurses as they minister within their faith communities, mostly in unpaid positions.  These are important events that are again made possible because of the generosity of clergy, laypersons, and faith community venues.

  • In 2006, the organization began more intensive outreach to faith communities in WNY with the hope of realizing the vision of having a parish nurse in every faith community in New York State.  And now, “Calling a Parish Nurse to Your Faith Community” is a regular educational outreach activity.  Invitations from various groups to talk about Parish Nursing continue.  Outreach to the Jewish community began in earnest during this year.  In 2008, dialogue began with Christ the King Seminary to expand our capacity to outreach to more audiences by holding a half-day seminar on a regular basis on that campus.

  • In March of 2007, the organization, along with Stall Geriatrics and Niagara University was awarded its first grant supported by the Community Health Foundation of Central and Western New York to study the viability of parish nurses acting as transition coaches when frail elderly enter into the health care system.  Our members enthusiastically embraced the initiative and as of 2011 are using the study design to interact with their congregants.  The project was highlighted as a podium presentation at the annual International Parish Nurse conference, The Westberg Symposium, in September 2008. Following the presentation in St. Louis and summary conferences held in Buffalo and Syracuse, New York, the reality of the need for additional funding was clear.  Our outcome data, despite a small “n” was favorable indicating that the use of a parish nurse during a transition between healthcare settings enhanced the success of the process leading to the potential of substantial cost savings for the health care system and a positive quality of life for the persons with whom the parish nurse worked.  Additional revenue would be needed to continue the work that generated significant interest by parish nurses across the nation and Canada.  Discussions with IPRO of New York State and CMS following the conclusion of the grant period were favorable and we hoped that we would find funds to continue.  Interest in the project was maintained and with the advent of the Affordable Health Act would open some avenues.

  • In May 2007, the organization’s name changed to Parish Nurse Ministries of New York, Inc. when it attained a 501c3, non for profit, status.  This transition was made possible through an ongoing partnership with the leadership of the Inter-Church Parish Nurse Programs, Inc.  Due to the efforts and support put forth by one specific individual, William D. Schulz, Esq., a scholarship bearing his name has been established.  This scholarship is awarded to registered nurses who are discerning the call to parish nurse ministry.  The first scholarship was awarded to a graduate of the 2008 graduating class at Niagara University.  Since then, three more nurses have received this award.

  • The Parish Nurse Ministries of New York, Inc. has been invited to participate in various community initiatives aimed at addressing health care issues: Rural Health Association, New York Department of Health, P2 Collaborative of WNY, UNYTS, Community Health Foundation of Buffalo, Niagara Caregivers Coalition, the National Partnership for Women and Families, Network of Religious Communities, WNY Clergy and Healthcare Education Project, the NYS Health Foundation, Expo 50, “World on Your Plate “, Project Homeless Connect”, Catholic Health System, the New York State Advance Initiative, and many more.  Members continue to be invited to address health care issues and talk about the parish nurse’s role as well as the work being done by parish nurses on radio, television, and in newspaper articles.
  • In April 2008, the organization held its second strategic planning session in an attempt to review our Vision and Mission and prioritize an action plan for the next three years.  2011 was the plan revisited.

  • On September 27, 2008 an Appreciation Luncheon was held to honor the many persons and organizations who have supported our efforts since our inception. With humble hearts, we extended our gratitude for their assistance in increasing the visibility of parish nursing in our community, acknowledging that, “With God, all things are possible”.

  • The year of 2008-9 was one of respite and renewal for members who were suffering with illnesses of their own or in their families.  But despite this slow down, work continued with the National Women’s and Children’s project which was studying how the empowerment of patients could improve health care outcomes.  Members from Erie, Niagara, and Chautauqua counties participated in this work.

  • In January 2009, we hosted a Community Conversation sponsored by the President-elect, B. Obama.  and the Obama Administration’s Health Reform task group.  Our organization remains politically active, especially regarding important social justice issues.  We are members of the Faithful Reform in Health, a national initiative working with faith communities to do the same.  Since 2012, we have participated in local efforts to support the visibility and expansion of the ACA which was an outgrowth of the national community conversations through the local Healthcare Education Project

  • In May 2009, members of our organization joined our efforts with the Network of Religious Communities to address the problem of Diabetes in WNY.  “Defy Diabetes”, a curriculum designed by parish or faith community nurses in the Albany area of New York state, has been disseminated to persons in WNY, in part, by parish nurses who continue to be involved in the newly titled, “Faith Fights Diabetes”. 

  • 2009 also saw marketing efforts in need of expansion. A consultant was hired to bring our technology up to speed through an improved web-system design and our Resource Center was equipped with tools, purchased with the monies obtained with the Transition Coach grant, which would allow us to expand our outreach to members and the community. In June of 2014, a paid Website consultant was engaged to assist with accomplishing our mission. We are most thankful to past friends and family and members who initiated and website up until this date.

  • In 2011, three years later, the organization is preparing to expand the initial project under the umbrella of CHFCWNY and the P2 Collaborative.  In September 2011, the executive committee agreed to send a Letter of Commitment to be part of the expansion of the concept in WNY.

  • In October 2011, membership of our Board of Directors was expanded.  And that same month we lost one of our founding members, Joanne McGarry, RN, Parish Nurse, to Sister Death.  Her smile and laughter live on… and we continue to miss her!  At the end of this month, we hosted an information table at the Episcopal Diocesan Convention in Buffalo.

  • By early 2012, our first official Parish Nurse Ministries of New York, Inc marketing brochure was published and in April we celebrated our 10th Anniversary as an organization with worship and reception ceremonies at our Resource Center.

  • In June 2012, we held another strategic planning seminar outlining our goals for the next few years.

  • In August 2012 we were invited to be present at the installation of the new Catholic Bishop of Buffalo,
    Bishop Malone, at St. Joseph’s Cathedral.  And of course, we were present to meet and greet and take blood pressures at the Docyznki Festival at Corpus Christi Church.

  • The year 2012-13 brought new opportunities for growth, blessings, and challenges as we continued to do God’s work. 

  • In 2013, a few participating, practicing Faith Community Nurses were asked to pilot an electronic documentation system, which provides a comprehensive way to track the effectiveness of the Faith Community Nursing practice. This data will be used to heighten the awareness of the role and provide evidence to inform decision-makers.
  • In 2014, a partnership with the Catholic Health System was established through its Health Workforce Retraining Initiative Grant. It has afforded any interested Registered Nurse and their faith community, an introduction to the ANA-recognized specialty practice of Faith Community Nursing through tuition support and mentoring for 18 months post completion of the FCN Education Program.

  • In August, we provided input into the Certification Portfolio preparation process sponsored by American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC) which is now accepting applications for obtaining a certification as a Faith Community Nurse.

  • In September 2014, we said goodbye to another of our members, Susan Owens, RN, Parish Nurse, who was called by name to her eternal rest.

  • The year 2014-15 has more doors that will open…our task is to continue the journey with faith and trust. Our members are ministering within their respective faith communities throughout WNY. We are committed to serving God’s people with our work and our donations to groups in need both locally and in Africa. Our donations at Christmas time and throughout the year are evidence of our response to our call to reach out and care for others.

  • In the fall of 2016, Sue Lucas, Faith Community Nurse died after a long illness.

  • The year 2016 was a challenging one for health care in the United States. Our organization composed a position paper regarding our thoughts and suggestions which was forwarded to POTUS and some members of both Houses of Congress.

  • We resurged our outreach to Niagara County by holding round table discussions with health care organizations in that part of WNY.

  • We celebrated a “15 Years of Caring” anniversary and held a lecture and luncheon for our members and community sponsors in gratitude for their generosity and work in the community.  The theme of the lecture was geared toward ways that Faith Communities can prepare and respond in times of crisis.

  • Our annual retreat was held and designed to support our members as they work day to day within their own faith communities.

  • The Network of Religious Communities and the Reifler Foundation granted us $4,000 to help support all of our educational activities.

There is so much to do and the parish nurses/faith community nurses realize that resources and time constraints are real.  However, they continue to trust in Divine Providence and thus push ahead.  Certainly, since the organization’s inception, the number of nurses who have chosen to begin a parish nurse ministry has grown and the visibility of parish nursing/faith community nursing in the community has increased.  The path has been rocky at times, however, the Parish Nurses TRUST that with God’s grace and in God’s time, the hopes and vision of the Parish Nurse Ministries of New York, Inc. will be realized.  For, “With God All Things Are Possible”!!

With humble hearts, the members of the Parish Nurse Ministries of New York, Inc. extend to all that have journeyed with us, our sincere and continued prayers of gratitude.