Date: 2018-2021

On September 15, 2021 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service approved competencies for minister formation and certification for Catholic pastoral care in hospital chaplaincy and related health care ministries, for Catholic veterans’ chaplaincy and pastoral care, and  for prison chaplaincy and ministries. In my role as Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry at the USCCB, I consulted with colleagues from the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC) in their efforts to ensure that previously existing competencies in these areas were properly updated and new competencies developed to address the need for well-prepared lay ministry leaders and clergy in these important areas of ministerial care provided by the Catholic Church. In addition to resourcing professional chaplaincy, NACC has worked extensively with a consulting body – the Partners in Pastoral Care – to develop pastoral care competencies addressing a wide range of health care settings and minister needs. They have also collaborated closely with the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition (CPMC) in the development of formational programs built around the newly approved prison ministries competencies. Finally, NACC also worked closely with the National Association of Veterans Affairs Catholic Chaplains (NCVACC) in the incorporation of their veterans’ chaplaincy standards into NACC’s certification processes. NACC has an over 55-year relationship with the USCCB, most recently expressed in the work on these competencies developed in consultation with these collaborating entities, and my office, representing the USCCB subcommittee for a period of five years. NACC also boasts strong relationships with several other Christian denominational chaplaincy bodies, as well as interfaith chaplaincy organizations.

These approved competencies will help prepare Catholics – both lay ministers and clergy – across the country for the vital work of providing spiritual care for those who are in hospitals, hospice, home convalescence, palliative care, assisted living and other settings. The veterans’ pastoral care competencies help prepare Catholics for ministries to Catholic and other veterans, with an emphasis on special skills needed to respond to specific needs in that community.  The prison ministries competencies are geared to prepare volunteers and pastoral care professional to respond to the needs of those who are incarcerated or affected by incarceration in any way, including those in immigrant detention, re-entry into society after incarceration, juvenille detention and more. This effort was informed by the expertise and experience of pastoral caregivers, clergy and laity, Catholic chaplains in various fields, theologians and other pastoral care practitioners. I am grateful to the USCCB subcommittee for their support and approval of these competencies.

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