Faith community nursing is a specialized area of professional nursing recognized by the American Nursing Association and the Health Ministries Association. These nursing professionals, who have taken on additional learning to be leaders and ministers in their faith communities, are known as integrators of faith and health.
There are currently 83 faith community nurses within the St. Cloud Diocese and seven CentraCare system hospitals.
“Each person who shows an interest in faith community nursing has a story of being called to the ministry,” said Annette Jesh, who serves as the parish health ministries coordinator in the Spiritual Care Department of St. Cloud Hospital.
“Faith community nurses who practice in the Diocese of St. Cloud bring the skills of nursing: listening, assessing needs, health education one to one or in group settings, confidential listening, finding resources, and especially helping a fellow faith community member with seeing how body, mind and spirit are connected in health and wellness,” she said.
Jesh became a faith community nurse in 2002 and served as an FCN at Sacred Heart Parish in Sauk Rapids for 14 years. During her ministry there, she did many things on her own in the beginning but quickly realized how important it was to involve the whole community. She was instrumental in creating a Health and Wellness Committee in the parish.
Some of the things a faith community nurse may do are:
- visit members of their church who are in the hospital;
- add requests to a prayer line;
- help with transportation needs to doctor appointments, therapy appointments or to the food shelf to get healthy food;
- make arrangements for receiving Communion at home
- visit and welcome families with new babies; and
- arrange educational opportunities on topics like fall prevention or weight loss to prevent diabetes and heart disease.
“Our faith community nurses are one more caring person encountering another person to be loved and cared for, and about living out our faith and gifts. It is really a gift of ministry that God has enriched our faith community members with and we are embracing,” Jesh said.
Ten new faith community nurses were commissioned at a ceremony Nov. 9 at Grace United Methodist Church in St. Cloud (see photo.)
“What a wonderful group who are so excited to do something in their faith communities. All have varied skills. They are excited to use their nursing and faith in a place where they share beliefs and so much of life with others,” Jesh said.
“The blessing for them is to be warmly received, wholeheartedly supported and embraced as health ministers who have done much in nursing, have had life experiences from birth through death, who have formed many skills and are so willing to learn new things and to use them in church ministry.”
The Visitor selected a few of the new faith community nurses to highlight. Their stories are below.
Palliative Care RN, CentraCare Health, Home Care and Hospice
Holy Trinity Parish, Royalton
When her oldest daughter was little, Marne Czech took a class to become a certified nursing assistant and began working at a nursing home in Alexandria.
“I fell in love with nursing,” Czech said. “I knew in my heart that my calling was to be a nurse. I wanted to serve people.”
Czech continued her education toward becoming a nurse. She spent 10 years at St. Gabriel’s Hospital in Little Falls as an ICU/medical/surgical nurse and currently works with CentraCare as a palliative home care nurse.
When she first heard about faith community nursing, the timing wasn’t right. But when the opportunity finally came, she knew it was all in God’s timing.
“I had noticed a few people in our parish going through chemo treatments or chronic illnesses and I felt lost as to how to acknowledge their pain and wanted to be able to assist them and their families if I could,” Czech said.
She participated in the FCN course, which is a certified course that includes 42.4 continuing education units and is taught by professional nursing faculty.
“Through this process I have become closer to God and my heart has been filled. I feel that I do have a calling to service. … Since I know I am being led to do this, as long as I listen and follow God’s plan, I will be able to serve as a faith community nurse,” Czech said.
Czech hopes to implement an FCN ministry in her parish to assess what the health needs of the parish are and then develop a program addressing the needs of the parish, she said. And she hopes to collaborate with fellow FCN classmate Janelle Maciej at the neighboring parish of St. Stanislaus in Bowlus.
Czech and her husband, Bernie, live on a dairy and pig farm near Royalton. Their family includes five children: Brittany, 23, Paige, 20, Drew, 18, Isaac, 10, and Jack, 9, and two grandchildren: Spencer, 3, and Christine, 2.
Stroke RN, CentraCare Neurosciences Stroke Center
Rich Spring Prairie Catholic Community, St. Boniface Parish
As a child, Angela Moscho wanted to be a teacher. It was in middle school that she first thought about the nursing profession.
“I wanted to help people and thought it would be ‘fun’ even though I would pass out at the sight of blood. Little did I realize I would get a little taste of teaching, as nurses are teachers in a sense to their patients and community,” Moscho said.
Moscho is now an RN and works with patients at CentraCare Neurosciences Stroke Center at St. Cloud Hospital.
Moscho said she had been looking for a way to become more involved with the church.
“My children are Mass servers, my husband has done a disaster relief trip with the church and is also part of the Catholic social justice group. So the question I had to myself was, ‘How can I become involved with the church?’”
She had seen an advertisement for the FCN program a number of years ago, but a busy life and work schedule prevented her from following up on the idea.
“When this class came out for November, the dates were perfect with my work schedule and home schedule and I knew that this was my sign, my calling,” she said.
The class, Moscho said, helped her identify her strengths and weaknesses and also affirmed her call to be a faith community nurse.
“I have had people tell me, and I’ll tell this to people as well, ‘God has a plan for you.’ Even though my first initial thought of being an FCN was seven years ago, have patience with [God] and take the time to listen to him and he will guide you through your life path.”
Moscho hopes to establish a faith community program within her church community and build from there. She lives in Rockville with her husband, Nathan, and four sons, Austin, 15, Evan, 13, Kameron, 11, and Mason, 9.
Jennifer Michalson and Susan Newkirk
Motley Free Methodist Church, Motley
Jesh said there can’t be a faith community of nurses without involving nurses from many different faith communities. Susan Newkirk and Jennifer Michalson are working together to develop a healthy ministry in their faith community of Motley Free Methodist Church in Motley.
Michalson and her husband, Scott, live in Motley with their children, Logan, 15, and twin 12-year-old daughters, Marissa and Selena. Michalson became a nurse to “make a difference and impact people in what tends to be some of the most difficult in their lives.” Her own experience includes the premature birth of her twins.
“God has repeatedly blessed my family through his saving and healing hands upon the girls and our family,” Michalson said.
She has worked in the medical field since she was 18. At age 34, she returned to school to become a registered nurse. She now works for CentraCare as an outpatient dialysis float nurse, traveling to St. Cloud, Alexandria, Staples, Brainerd, Little Falls and Princeton.
“During my three years of schooling, one of my daughters was hospitalized three different times, had a major surgery and complications from that surgery. God carried me through my schooling in order for me to graduate. … I believe God has a plan for each of us and this journey is mine,” she said.
After graduation, Michalson approached her pastor about the possibility of serving as a faith community nurse in her church.
“I didn’t know where to start and let the idea just sit and burn inside me when I received an email regarding an education opportunity,” Michalson recalled.
That’s when she inquired with a fellow church member, Susan Newkirk, who is also an RN, whether she’d be interested in initiating an FCN program at their church.
Newkirk, who is a school nurse in Onamia and an employee health and education nurse for Lakewood Health System in Staples, agreed and participated in the November FCN courses. Both were commissioned Nov. 9.
Newkirk has been an RN for 29 years and went into nursing to “advocate for those clients who do not have a voice or are unable to advocate for themselves.” Becoming a faith community nurse allows her to combine two of her greatest loves: faith and health.
“Having a relationship with God and being part of a faith community is very important to me,” Newkirk said. “Through Faith Community Nursing I can show God’s love to others and promote health within the faith community.”
Both Michalson and Newkirk share the goal of creating opportunities to integrate their faith and their careers as faith community nurses.
“People ask why I am a nurse,” Newkirk said in a letter to her pastor. “The standard answer for most nurses is that we want ‘to help people.’ But for me, my answer encompasses much more. God gave me a compassion to advocate for those who seek medical care. My experience as a case management nurse has allowed me to gain the necessary technical nursing skills to care for the physical needs of my clients. As a Christian nurse, I have been able to help many clients with spiritual needs as well, through prayer and sharing Scriptures.”
Newkirk and her husband, Ian, have three adult children, two sons, a daughter and two daughters-in-law, and reside in Pillager, Minnesota.
“As with all things in my life, I have no idea how the initiation of the faith community nurse program will exactly work,” Michalson added. “But I know that God allows people to experience certain things in their lives in order to use them to help others. I believe that is what his intent for me is. Whether helping a chemo patient find rides to and from treatments or helping educate people on health issues they may not have been aware of, being able to bridge people with physical and spiritual care will be an honor.”