The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lead Stories

September 17, 2006

'Body, mind and spirit'

By Dave Woods

CARTHAGE, Mo. — After retiring from a 30-year career teaching health occupations at the Carthage Technical Center, Barbara Mountjoy never thought she would be preparing to start another career at 68 years old.

“Twenty years ago I thought at this age I’d be drooling in a wheelchair,” she said with a laugh.

But now, the retired teacher and registered nurse is spearheading a new parish nursing program at Grace Episcopal Church in Carthage.

Through the program, Mountjoy said she hopes to help her fellow congregation members navigate the difficulties of the health-care system, perform standard health screenings, offer health-care advice, make health-care referrals and connect her patients with other health resources.

In addition to taking care of her fellow parishioners’ physical health and mental needs, she hopes to make an impact on their spiritual health as well.

“We are not going to just take care of a person’s physical being, we will take care of their soul, too,” she said.

“We will serve the total person — body, mind and spirit.”

She proudly pointed to surveys that suggested more than three-quarters of Americans say nursing is the country’s most trusted profession.

It’s that trust she hopes will allow her to awaken her parish members to many health concerns.

There are some things people will tell a nurse, she said, that they will not even tell their priest.

“Often times,” she said, “people are hesitant to discuss matters of prenatal care, pregnancy prevention and sexual performance with their priest.”

Since the mid-1980s, many Episcopal, Catholic and Lutheran congregations around the country have enjoyed the benefits of a parish nurse ministry.

The Rev. Steve Wilson, who recruited Mountjoy from retirement to administer the program, said he thinks it is needed to help his congregation’s members, particularly the older ones, prepare for what he called a “holy death.”

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