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CURRENT ISSUE:  March 8, 2010
VOL. 48, NO. 5   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Poorest hurt most in Chile quake
Bishops urge bipartisan action on health care reform
Antioch parish adds nurse
to ministry programs

A small group of parishioners at St. Ignatius Parish in Antioch are walking to Jerusalem these days. But it’s not a literal trip. The 25 walkers are part of a new holistic health and fitness program which embraces physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational dimensions, explained Gloria Lewis.

Lewis, a member of St. Ignatius for the past five years and a registered nurse who specializes in palliative care, introduced the Walk to Jerusalem on Jan.10 as the premiere event of her new ministry as a parish nurse. Lewis made her proposal about starting a parish nurse program last fall to Father Robert Rien, parochial administrator. The parish council officially approved it in October.

The parish nursing program will soon include a large se-lection of monthly educational sessions on such topics as palliative care and hospice, advanced care planning, Medicare and MediCal updates, caregiver stress, weight management, as well as information on the Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, diabetes and heart disease.

The Walk to Jerusalem is a physical fitness program developed by St. John Health Parish Nursing program in Warren, Mich. said Lewis. Used during the seasons of Lent or Advent, the program is an imaginary trek to the Holy Land and has individuals within the congregation logging walking miles each week, with a goal of reaching Jerusalem by Easter or Bethlehem by Christmas.

Everyone is encouraged to walk daily and 20 minutes of any exercise counts as one mile, said Lewis. As people walk through their neighborhoods or nearby parks, they meditate on what they’d like to accomplish on that particular trip such as reading the Bible daily, memorizing a favorite verse, or praying every day.

“The deeper spiritual goal may be to have a more in-depth personal relationship with Jesus, to be more loving and kind towards others, and practicing forgiveness.” The ultimate spiritual goal is to become more Christ-like in our everyday encounters with people and society, Lewis said.

The walkers are provided with weekly agendas informing them where they are geographically in their virtual walks. On one recent trip, they learned they had left Detroit and were moving through Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York for the next 700 miles. Informational tidbits for those geographical areas include facts concerning the state capitol, state flower and tree, and the names of the area’s indigenous peoples.

The walkers are also supplied with health information such as why it is important to quit smoking. “Every cigarette you smoke shortens your life by about eleven minutes, but as soon as you quit, your risk for heart disease decreases. After you stop smoking for one year, your risk of dying from heart disease is cut in half,” the informational advisory reminds people.

Lewis also includes bonus information such as noting that smoking can cause wrinkles, dull skin, and stained teeth, “making you look older than you are.”

Lewis has been interested in starting a parish nursing program ever since she took a course in this ministry several years ago. She tried to develop a program in Iowa when she was living there, but churches were not interested. When she moved to southern California, Lewis initially helped out with other parish nursing programs there.

When she moved to the East Bay, she found the perfect fit at St. Ignatius. “I believe that parish nursing correlates with the sacred, caring healing practices of nursing. Spirituality is a central component of it.”

Lewis has a master’s in nursing from the University of Phoenix, a bachelor’s from Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, and a registered nurse’s diploma from St. Joseph Mercy School of Nursing in Des Moines, Iowa.

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