From health care ministry to pastoral care with health care workers
The health professions, like so many other vocations, can be a privileged springboard and an open pathway to God. Doctors, psychologists, nurses and those involved in care reflect on the profound mystery of the human being who suffers and loves, resists and hopes, trusts and fights. They touch the very mystery of God, even if only for a moment.
This is the basic thesis of this article, which we could summarize thus: pastoral care involving health care workers must help them to perceive and recognize, in the exercise of their profession, the living presence of the Risen Lord, who comes to meet them through those who suffer. In other words, to be a health care worker, is for those who believe, a way of proceeding toward God and being able to be reached by Him.
Consequently, a pastoral ministry to health care professionals that seeks to interact through all aspects of their work and life will have to take into account both the prophetic and communitarian dimensions of faith. It cannot be satisfied with exhortations to service and sacramental celebration. Undoubtedly, service and prayer – diakonia and leitourgia – must be an integral part of this apostolic approach, but the proclamation that the Kingdom and fraternity – kerygma and koinonia – are already present in health care centers, nursing homes and hospital wards must not be forgotten.
In this article we want to consider health care professionals not only as agents, but also as recipients of evangelization. Indeed, very often the health care professionals are insistently invited, under various capacities, to become “missionaries.” However, sometimes they find they must recognize themselves as “disciples” at the same time. Therefore, here we will speak of pastoral care with health care workers, rather than health care ministry or health care workers who do pastoral care, that is, of the path that the “disfigured” open – for those who care for them – toward the contemplation of the One who is the “transfigured” of God.