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Origins of Pastoral Care Week

by Chaplain Dick Cathell, Ph.D.


Pastoral Care Week started in 1983 when the National Association of Catholic Chaplains passed a resolution to establish a Pastoral Care Week. It was not until October of 1985 that the first Pastoral Care Week was held by NACC. In December of the following year, the Congress on Ministries in Specialized Settings recommended at their annual meeting to establish a committee to implement a National Pastoral Care Week. The first committee appointed Harvey Huntley, Representative of COMISS, Reverend Lin Barnett, Representative for the College of Chaplains (now the Association of Professional Chaplains), and Sister Patricia Doerr, Representative for the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.


The first committee meeting was actually a conference call in April of 1987. NACC had sparked a fire that had encompassed COMISS and the entire pastoral care arena across the nation. The first National Pastoral Care Week, "Excellence in Pastoral Care", was celebrated October 25-31, 1987. Each year since then the last week in October has continued to provide an opportunity for chaplains and pastoral care providers to share their story and to celebrate their various ministries.


Originally, NACC had used a piece of art replicated in a poster form and sold as a fund raiser during Pastoral Care Week, but by 1988 the National Pastoral Care Week committee, under the guidance of COMISS created a new logo which was a heart with two figures. In 1989, COMISS recommended that the chair of the National Pastoral Care Week committee would be held by the Vice-President of COMISS. Thus Chaplain Jack Gleason became the chair and the committee picked a new logo that was a butterfly with heart shaped wings. This logo was an original design by a dying Muslim inmate with AIDS who was being ministered to by Chaplain Carol Bamesberger. This was the year that I was asked to join the committee representing the College of Chaplains and also suggested that something more than a poster was needed to tell the story of pastoral care. The committee continued to brainstorm various ideas from buttons, badges, pens and various other items that could carry the story of pastoral care in action. CAM, Inc. of Kansas City was selected as the pastoral care theme and logo on it.


By the early 90's the enthusiasm had spread across the nation and even into Canada and beyond. By 1995 the word national was dropped from National Pastoral Care Week because it was obvious that it was not just a national celebration but, in fact, an international one. Various countries were using our materials and promotional items to help them celebrate. From such a very small start, Pastoral Care Week has grown to an international celebration. Join us in celebrating this year!


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