Pastoral Report Articles 

  • 03 Dec 2013 9:53 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    In the Fall of 2012, the Executive Committee appointed a task force to formulate new models for the future structure and governance of CPSP. Recently, after 12 months of work, the Governance Task Force completed its work and submitted its Report to the CPSP Executive Committee.

    The Task Force was composed of both pastoral clinicians and diplomates who worked separately and together to produce this Report.

    The Report offers three models of governance for the Executive Committee to consider:

    Divisional Model: This model emphasizes the different roles, responsibilities and needs of diplomates and pastoral clinicians in CPSP. The Divisional model seeks to support the members in each of these professional groups and provides the structure to design specific programs to improve professional standards, ongoing training, chapter development, institutional accountability and certification process.

    Regional Model: This integrated model shifts most of the daily operations of CPSP to regional operational and governance systems with the overall legal, and fiduciary functions of the organization as well as professional standards handled by an International Board of Directors. The Regional Model is designed to expand the capacity of the organization to manage growth while maintaining international standards of practice and our historic covenantal commitment to a relational philosophy.

    Existing-Revised: This model keeps our historic CPSP structure while adding components which provide for elected representation, systems of accountability, and delineation of roles and responsibilities for diplomates and clinicians within the organization.

    The Report also strongly recommends that the Executive Committee engage in a “Community/ Regional Listening” process to share information about governance and to receive feedback from CPSP members.

    All Chapter Conveners have received an email from the CPSP Governance Task Force which contains a link to the full Report. Please ask your Convener for a copy of this link. All comments and feedback on this Report should be sent directly to members of the CPSP Executive Committee.

    The members of the Governance Task Force have invested serious thought and an inspiring level of passion into this project. The members are to be commended for their determination, breadth of inquiry, and commitment to CPSP. We hope you will join us in appreciation of their efforts.

    John Jeffery, Chair (April 2013 – October 2013)
    Dallas Speight, Chair (October 2012 – March 2013)

    Task Force Members:

    Dee Jacquet

    Beverly Jessup

    Julien Olivier

    Ed Outlaw

    Ruth Zollinger

    Henry Heffernan (chair of Pastoral Clinician Task Force)

    John Jeffery, Chair

  • 26 Nov 2013 10:03 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    NCTS is a unique group.  We meet twice a year.  It's an opportunity to get together with a diverse representation of chaplains of all denominations and types of work places.  It's also a chance to get away from it all and  to spend quality time at a quality place.  Old friends meet up and catch up.  

    New chaplains find a place where they can learn from their peers and find mentors who share their years of expertise, skills and knowledge. We always have a one of a kind professional development opportunities in a relaxed environment surrounded by the wonders of nature.  

    This past November 12 and 13 we met at a new facility, the San Alfonso Retreat House in Long Branch, NJ which is right on the Atlantic Ocean.  It was large and had spacious views of the water to inspire us.  We got to see the work they have had to do since being hit by hurricane Sandy. There were 60 people present and about a third were first time attendees. 

    Everyone had an opportunity to bring a case that they presented to their small group. With ten groups, feedback abounds and thumbnail reports give us all a chance to catch the jest and then seek out the presenter if it peaks our interest to learn more in a one on one conversation.  

    This time around the presentations were on the topic of mental health and were presented by long standing member, Dr. Dwight Sweezy, who just retired after 33 years at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital.  He presented in a style that gave insight to the population of people that we serve everyday in some way or another and could identify with in our experiences.  He told us quips and quotes. 

    There was a 90 minute Tavistock that got things rocking and rolling the first night followed by a social with refreshments and a chance to let your hair down and hang out with your chapter members and new and old friends.

    We couldn't have such a great event without a committee that works like a well oiled machine and is led by Dr. Francine Hernandez.  Thanks to all who took part to make it another success.

    Time flies and we leave relaxed, refreshed and ready to take our new found information and skills back to our work with contacts to call on at anytime.  Looking forward to the next one in early May at Loyola Retreat House in Morristown, NJ.  You won't want to miss it. 


    Claire Jones, ABCCC
    Hospice Chaplain
    Robert Wood Johnson/Visiting Nurse Association

  • 19 Nov 2013 10:11 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Finding Our Way As Midwives

    It seems to me that people who feel unsafe retreat to extremes. When uncertainty surrounds us, it is preferable to run to one end or the other, to have a wall against which you can put your back, to have a group whose identity and number can be a support. I don’t think I need to name the number of arenas in public life where this occurs—we are all too painfully aware of it. But what has surprised me is how pervasive such dynamics and divisions can be in chaplaincy. 

    Dividing Line: Presence or Surgery

    While such a description of a very common divide in chaplaincy will no doubt be overly-reductionistic, the divide seems to go something like this—many chaplains view their work as primarily about presence, heart, and empathy. Then, some seem to think that supervisors care only about “surgery”, the head, and maintain a critical (or safe) distance. 

    More than being a struggle between two groups within our organization, it might be best understood as a struggle within each one of us. And yet it is easier to suspend the struggle and run to one camp or the other.

    “I’m presense. I won’t fail. I’ve made sure of it by not taking risks. I don’t make interventions and lead the patient somewhere new because if I do, they might reject me.” 

    Or, “I’m a surgeon. I take risks, but the risk is really owned by the other person. I don’t get close enough to feel the pain of it myself. That’s why I keep the mask on.”

    With presence alone and no intervention, we don’t risk failure. With surgery alone and no presence, we protect ourselves from feeling the failure. I want to propose that if we can offer anything prophetic as chaplains, it is a willingness to fail. And on these terms, both of these extremes fail.

    Co-People or Chaplain-Patient

    Given this split vision, what has struck me most is the insistence among some chaplains that we really aren’t chaplains; rather we are “co-people”. “There really is no chaplain or patient—instead, we are just present together.” If I grasp the intended beauty of this statement, they seem to be asserting that no one is better than anyone else and that our work should not be paternalistic. If so, I can respond with a resounding “Amen!”

    However, this line about being “co-people” falls short of reality when viewed from a patient’s perspective—they see you as their chaplain. I dare say that this vision of “co-people” thus falls short of being “patient-centered” because it is not how the patient sees it. It is more about our idealized anthropology than about the patient.

    Honesty, Power, and Owning Our Role

    As everyone reading this is likely in the choir, I imagine we all know the danger of a young priest who begins wearing the collar before he understands how much power is attributed to this symbol. He or she is too fresh to realize that such accouterments actually require gentler movements because whatever is said is likely multiplied in the hearing because it comes from a collar. 

    Similarly, when we walk into a room and disclose our role as that person’s chaplain, we are no longer “co-people” in their experience. From the moment we introduce ourselves, we have become their chaplain. In their hearing, we are differentiated; that is inevitable, and it is even good! We certainly don’t want to think of ourselves as better than our patients or as an uncaring professional, but that is never what being a chaplain meant. Being a chaplain is to be a differentiated professional who does care.

    The role even means something whether we feel our pastoral authority or not. Even if we don’t exercise the “power” overtly that comes with the role, that reality does not prevent our authority from being felt in the patient. We know this when our people apologize for using 4-letter words in our presence, assuming they have offended someone whose mere presence demands an apology. 

    Put another way, as we all know from our clinical training, the supervisee-trainee relationship is asymmetrical. So is the chaplain-patient relationship. In fact, it is the very particularity of our role with the patient that allows so much of our encounter to occur on sacred ground. 

    It is good that when we go into the room, we don’t do so as a physician. We are not these to stand (and not sit), to cross our arms, to listen to the heartbeat and then cut the patient off as they share their experience of the illness. (Of course, all physicians are not like this, but you get the point.) However, I also don’t think we are there just to be “co-people” either; many of our people are looking to be led somewhere, and we are the ones they look to.

    Transcendence: The Role of the Midwife

    There must be some middle way between these extremes—between presence and professionalism, between heart and head, between empathy and critical distance. We are both professionals and we are people who care deeply in our souls. We aren’t there to do the work for the patient, but we also aren’t there to do no work. So what are we?

    I suggest that our answer lies closer to home than we imagine—it is in our covenant. In our common work together, we commit to midwife one another in our respective spiritual journeys.

    A midwife doesn’t sit in the corner inactive, but she also doesn’t administer an epidural, shielding the mother from the pain that is her own. The midwife doesn’t deliver the baby on her own while making the laborer become more passive. She listens to the breath of the laboring mother, becoming attuned to her contractions, and connected to her spirit.

    The midwife puts a hand on the mother’s back, supports her in her pushing, in her pain, and through this transformational journey, helps the mother to discover that her pain has given way to a new life that is precious and sacred beyond measure. Ultimately, she leads the mother and invites her to trust the bidding of her own body. I could offer a translation of what this embodied process means for those of us who work with the soul, but you no doubt already know.

    The midwife seems to me to be the way between and beyond these polarized options. It seems to be what we all have in common. It seems to be how we do our work when we do it well. I know I set this article up as if I have something new to say—sorry to disappoint because the reality is that I don’t. It is the tradition that can serve us; perhaps by moving back to it, we will move forward.

    We won’t always get the right balance, but it is balance that we are after. When we walk out the door as a midwife, the patient won’t be in withdrawal, lacking their co-person, nor is the patient untransformed just thinking how great the professional was that just walked out the door. Instead, she thinks—or better, she feels—“What a gift this new life is. Look at what I’ve done.” 

    After this work of presence and precision, attainment and intervention, the midwife does what is most essential—she disappears…


    Rev. Matthew Rhodes is the Director of Religious Ministries with the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro. He is currently enrolled in the Doctorate of Psychology Program in Clinical Pastoral Supervision with the Institute for Psychodynamic Pastoral Supervision. You can reach him at

  • 19 Nov 2013 10:07 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    The gathering of the CPSP Community for its 24th Annual Plenary will occur March 30 through April 2, at the Sheraton Oceanfront Hotel in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

    A block of rooms has been re-served at a special rate of $119, single or double, per night. Reserve your room online today by clicking on this link: Sheraton Oceanfront Hotel, or call 800-325-3535 or go to the Sheraton Oceanfront website.

    Please download the 2014 CPSP Plenary Brochure listed below for detail information.

    Make your reservations now!!

    Please contact Krista Argiropolls if you have questions.

  • 18 Nov 2013 10:14 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Now "hear" this... The issue is not about getting too comfortable. The issue is so impressive upon our consciousness that we must ease into it and take a bit of a circuitous route.

    Cyber technology and social media have conspired with some practical constraints to stimulate numerous changes in the practice of psychotherapy. Many people expect, or are prepared for, different dynamics from professional helpers than the usual 50 minute hour in an office that is rather emotionally plastic, even if the seating is wool and leather. There are movements to involve active computer interaction and diagnosis, as well as remote treatment, such as using Skype, etc. Insurance companies and clinical ethicists are striving to provide guidelines that are economically self serving and avoid undue liability. And of course, this is all in the name of providing the best care to patients and clients. Oh, Sigmund...

    I have always delighted in the fact that he was born Sigismund Schlomo Freud. Just the sound of that name is stirring and evocative, and even joyful... As my own hearing has deteriorated a bit over the past several years, sounds are increasingly treasured. Over the years I wondered, as we often do, which sense I would rather be without, my sight or my hearing, and I usually concluded I would prefer to lose my hearing; I could not contemplate the question if the matter was considered a condition from birth. I then remember my first CPE supervisor, a man who had lost his sight as an adult and was a marvel to watch as he ministered throughout the large hospital where he was in charge of pastoral care.

    Sigismund Schlomo...The sight of the words means little, but the sound of them is marvelous. And is it not also the case when people want to be "heard"? No one yells at their partner that the problem is that the dumbbunny didn't "see" him or, you are a jerk because you didn't "hear" me!

    Neurologists and neurophysiologists have remarkable opinions about the operations of the brain. Is the occipital cortex more complex than the auditory cortex? The occipital cortex seems to be better understood, but the auditory cortex may be far more complex in many ways. I would suggest in simple terms that the ears "see" far more than the eyes "hear". I believe that to be true.

    In the therapeutic interaction, some have tried to include other senses such as touch, which has been heralded by many women as important. Documented abuse has addressed both men and women as perpetrators, and in any case, physical touch has been essentially proscribed from the professional psychotherapeutic interaction. Touch is out... Taste is out... Smell is ambiguous... So, we are left with sight and hearing.

    In 1998 I began providing psychotherapy to persons who were not physically in my office. I had very specific conditions for this activity, which have eventually been incorporated into the standards of practice that are present today for pastoral counselors, marriage and family therapists, and a variety of clinical fields where such encounters are considered.

    What became especially interesting was the experience of phone therapy vs. the emerging experience of therapy facilitated by developing technologies for video-conferencing and the evolution of widely available tools such as Skype. I began to observe an apparent contradiction. The supposed transparency and intimacy and engagement provided by the union of simultaneous audible and visual communication was not effective. It was illusory at best. The cases that used this advancing technology were less effective and intimate and engaging than the cases that relied on phone contact alone. The cases that employed only phone contact were more intensive, more transformative, and the patients sought to continue more in their exploration of their issues.

    Could it be that, despite my need to raise the volume a bit, the cases that relied entirely on our non-visual interaction were more effective and productive and intimate and therapeutically significant? What about the importance of trying to "read" the non-verbal indices that are part of the visual portion of the vaunted audio-visual encounters?

    When I presented this material in my collegial supervision and consultation, it became apparent that I had been putting more emphasis on MY ability to perceive what was presented through the screen and speakers in front of me, instead of experiencing the patient's revelation of personal and transferential information. I seems I had lost my therapeutic perspective; something about the media had seduced me or misdirected my attention.

    There are several cartoons in my office that depict caricatures of clinical practice, including one where Schlomo is sitting behind a fainting couch. The caption is irrelevant but the image is a priceless reminder of the power of evoking the free expression and transference of the patient. No visual contact was required or desired. The transactions were oral and audible and unfettered by the body language of the patient or the visage of the therapist. Yes, "unfettered"...

    I currently have patients in several parts of the United States and in Germany and Italy. In every case I utilize only the audible expression of content and interaction. In these clinical engagements I am as close to the "couch" as is possible in today's world. In my current office visits with local patients, I am beginning to encourage less and less face to face interaction. More content is being elicited in this shift, which I find amazing despite my journey as a clinician for over 35 years. I am ready, for many reasons, to make the "case for the couch".

    I could go on for many paragraphs with more evidence, but all I would be doing is promoting truths there were evident over a century ago. Yes, it is not the patient who resists, it is the therapist, and therapist resistance is furthered by the ego of the clinician who needs to believe he or she is a real person in the process that heals the patient. We are functionaries, albeit ones that must be as well prepared and crafted as is possible. In the Christian tradition, we are at best the fit vessels of spiritual forces greater and more vital than we can ever imagine. We are most effective when we are an extension of the ego of the patient in crisis as he or she becomes the patient in process and the patient in victory. Schlomo the Jew did it in the context of his own belief or non-belief, and we can certainly strive to do as well.


    William Scar
    Diplomate, CPSP
    Diplomate, AAPC
    Approved Supervisor, AAMFT
    Program Director, Good Samaritan Counseling Center/SCIC

  • 12 Nov 2013 8:06 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Clinical Chaplaincy is relational, neutral and non-judgmental. It is a patient centered approach in keeping with the person centered model as advocated by Carl Rogers, integrating the arts and sciences relative to psychodynamic theory in pastoral practice.

    Around any illness is a collection of stories. The chaplain endeavors to be present to the patient as a fellow human being, as the patient’s stories unfold; bearing witness to the patient’s dilemma- not judging the patient for what they say or how they choose to express themselves. This narrative approach places the chaplain in the unique role as the interpreter of metaphors, assisting the patient in making the connections to their story.

    At times these stories are confessional in nature, as a patient, through narrative seeks to reconcile themselves with the life that they have lived. At other times, the stories they relate represent more a review of their life inextricably interwoven with finishing the business of living.

    Consequently, clinical chaplaincy is a patient centered narrative approach. Integral to that, is the patient’s family. Working with the stories that patients and families share, the clinical chaplain can begin to assess how the family approaches illness, and in particular, this hospitalization.

    The Clinical Chaplain also assesses how the patient utilizes their religious experience or their philosophy of life as a means of support as they seek to come to terms with their diagnosis and its attendant ambiguities of living each day.

    Extensive clinical training and a proactive integration of the social sciences, especially in the fields of counseling and psychotherapy is essential to the work of the Clinical Chaplain. 

    George Hankins Hull, Dip.Th, Th.M.
    Director of pastoral care and clinical pastoral education at UAMS Medical Center. He is a Diplomate in the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy and a board-certified clinical chaplain.

  • 07 Oct 2013 8:09 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Orlo C. Strunk, Jr., Ph.D., former Managing Editor of The Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling (JPCP) died September 24, 2013.

    Dr. Strunk's contribution to and leadership in the clinical pastoral field was considerable.

    In April of 2011 the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP) honored him with the prestigious Helen Flanders Dunbar Award with Dr. Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD presiding over the occasion.

    The Pastoral Report published Dr. Powell's presentation. Embedded in the following remarks was Dr. Powell's keen observation and appreciation of Dr. Strunk's uniqueness and ability:

    To say that our honoree has been open to new ideas – and new ways of knowing – about a great number of things – would be an understatement. A “comprehensive and authentic understanding of religious experience and behavior requires a broad and inclusive kind of perspective.” Specifically, today’s honoree has discussed, with courageous persistence, open-mindedness versus closed-mindedness within the fields of religion and psychology, as well as concern about an uncritical/ unexamined acceptance of the Zeitgeist and various “isms”. Complexity, in this view, should be embraced, not avoided or rejected. “After all, there is no such thing as a unified psychology; and certainly to think of religion generically strains credibility. What we have, of course, are psychologies of religions.” Thus the newest Dunbar honoree, with courageous persistence, promoted and defended the formulation of new views, even if these were not popular. An episode ten years ago especially stands out, but there were others: an early book [1982], for example, was dedicated to “those adversaries who unwittingly reminded” today’s honoree of a core value – privacy. 

    For many of us in the CPSP community and beyond take heart in Dr. Powell's assertion that Orlo C. Strunk ... with courageous persistence, promoted and defended the formulation of new views, even if these were not popular.

    Perry Miller, Editor
    Perry Miller, Editor

  • 26 Sep 2013 8:38 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Tolerance and Encouragement: Making Room for Divine Presence – instead of “Paging” Him or Her Interfaith? Multi faith? Engaging Others in Their Faiths

    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

    care, counseling, and psychotherapy 
    become “pastoral” – or even “theological” – 
    when there is “trialogue” – 
    when the discussion between a clinician and 
    a suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable soul 
    allows enough silence for both to 
    be aware of divine presence and
    be open to divine insight.

    Such was the view of Wayne Edward Oates, PhD (1917-1999), a fascinating chaplain who knew the works of Sigmund Freud as well as he knew the books of the Bible. The notions of “interfaith” and “multifaith” chaplaincy probably did not mean much to him. Certainly the Rev. Dr. Oates worked with those who did not share his religious tradition – yet I have trouble believing that he would have considered such care, counseling, or psychotherapy as either “interfaith” – focusing on commonalities – or “multifaith” – focusing on differing beliefs. His work with others just “was” – just was work valued by both. Whether it was the chaplain who made room or it was the patient who made room for the Deity probably did not matter much to either of them – as long as there was “trialogue” – as long as there was Divine Presence in the midst of their work.

    In a nutshell, this is why I have very mixed feelings about the recent book, Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine, by sociologist Wendy Cadge, PhD. She is able to observe clinical chaplains trying quietly “to … create … sacred spaces …” in their work. She is able to observe hospital chaplains trying to assist “people at their most vulnerable” times. However, throughout the book, she somewhat scornfully rues the day that clinical pastoral chaplaincy was wooed down a bland interfaith path while she half-heartedly envisions that medically-immersed chaplaincy might embrace a multifaith approach. It is hard to be sure whether she does or does not respect professional chaplains – and one is left with the lingering suspicion that she does not. It would appear that she views professional chaplains, in their efforts toward political correctness, as having created the bureaucratic morass in which they now frequently find themselves. Furthermore, rather than respect that clinical chaplains are embedded within specific religious traditions, she would re-embed them within large (usually secular) universities having schools of medicine, theology, and public health, modeling their training and education more along the lines of that provided in nursing and social work. Only vaguely does she appear to recognize that financial issues have channeled – and still channel – the nourishment of professional chaplaincy.

    Cadge’s comments reflect, unfortunately, an almost entirely “New England Brahmin” view of the world – a fact of which she appears quite unaware. There is much not to like in this book – and I cannot really recommend it – but its wrong-headedness does stir up some thoughts. The good news is that the core chapters of the book are reasonably well-written. The bad news is that the two ends of the book are not. For me, bad grammar is distracting – as is voluminous name-dropping. “ ‘Paging’ God?” I certainly hope that the Deity – whatever one calls Him or Her – does not have to put up with the generally nerve-grating squeal of a pager. The title’s mildly sacrilegious tone did bother me. It is altogether another matter, for example, in my opinion, to have the gentle tingling of bells respectfully invite and welcome Divine Presence.

    Cadge’s book – intentionally or unintentionally – does end up framing the question of “interfaith chaplaincy” versus “multifaith chaplaincy” – or of the two versus “none of the above”. She chronicles the efforts, within the interfaith approach, to avoid offending anyone by emphasizing somewhat generic-content “spirituality” in contrast to emphasizing this or that specific-content religion. She also notes the rareness with which, within the multifaith approach, the beliefs and practices of different theological traditions actually are engaged.

    Some might say that hospitals tend to become more “real” in the wee hours of the night, as healers and those hoping to be healed are

    thinking and feeling together about
    the things that matter most, …
    [coming] through with
    a deepened sense of fellowship and
    a religious faith which …
    [comes] alive for them.

    Those, of course, are the words of Anton Theophilus Boisen (1876-1965), founder of the movement for professional chaplaincy. Cadge, too, suggests that, when most of the chaplains have left for the day, interfaith and multifaith concerns seem to fall by the wayside, as those of differing beliefs live out their individual religious commitments – usually with others’ tolerance and encouragement. The question remains: Has not much of professional chaplaincy, in allowing a growing emphasis on an areligious, secular, “meaning-making” notion of “spirituality,” ended up creating a clinical environment that “glosses over rather than engages religious differences”?

    Making “space for one another,” as “The Covenant” of The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy encourages, is one thing. Standing “ready to midwife one another in our respective spiritual journeys” – as it also encourages – is a bit harder – and something else. Can clinical pastoral chaplaincy move beyond “interfaith” and “multifaith” toward actual engagement of our brothers’ and sisters’ faiths – back, truly, to Boisen’s “thinking and feeling together about the things that matter most”?

    The following are the bibliographic details of the cited items:
    The reference in the opening highlighted comment and in the first paragraph is to 

    Wayne Edward Oates, The Presence of God in Pastoral Counseling (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1986). See also, Robert Charles Powell. “Calling Wayne Oates! Southern Baptist Theologues Need You! Letter to the Editor of the Pastoral Report.” 24 Feb 2005. 

    The reference in the second paragraph is to Wendy Cadge, Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012); the specific citations are to pages 76 and 201.

    The highlighted comment in the fifth paragraph is from Anton Theophilus Boisen, Out of the Depths: Autobiographical Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1960), pages 179-180. The Cadge citation at the very end of the paragraph is from page 196 of her book.

    “The Covenant” can be found at .

    See also, Robert Charles Powell, “Religion in Crisis and Custom: Formation and Transformation – Discovery and Recovery – of Spirit and Soul.” [click on “Materials”]; 

    (translated [2011] by Chaplains Rafael Hiraldo Román & Jesús Rodríguez Sánchez, with the assistance of Chaplain R. Esteban Montilla, as “Religión en Crisis y en Costumbre: Formación y Transformación - Descubrimiento y Recuperación - de Espíritu y Alma”; .)


    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD is the leading historian of the clinical pastoral movement. Many of his published writings are posted on the Pastoral Report. Readers can use the PR's search engine found on the left side-bar to locate his articles. As a practicing psychiatrist, his writings reflect his daily investment in his clinical practice of providing psychotherapy and care to his patients. Contact Dr. Powell by clicking here

  • 17 Sep 2013 8:44 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    "Reconciliation," by Josefina de Vasconcellos

    We faced another crisis in the Middle East as we recently marked 9/11 -- with outcome uncertain.

    Last month I attended the dedication of a labyrinth I helped to build. Afterward, the pastor invited me to his Friday morning service when I told him I liked small churches (mine has 12,000). As we few men gathered the word "shul" popped into my head along with the memory of a dimly-lit room where I formed minion for two Jewish friends.

    I value Sacramental reconciliation and religious practices such as Yom Kippur and labyrinths that aid inner healing. We can help people with spiritual healing by accepting the efficacy of their own reconciliation, in words and in silence. A few years ago I found a kind of inner healing in my first labyrinth and visiting the grave of my fallen brother in France. We each heal differently. To require a standard of silence or word reconciliation could mean judging others who may already harshly judged themselves. The only standard for a labyrinth is in its own construction, not what goes on inside the person who walks it. I would like to become a conduit like that.

    As for the use of words, I rationalized my shul memory by retrieving an old review of Walker Percy's The Thanatos Syndrome: "Perhaps the single most important idea in Percy's epistemology, expressed again and again in his essays and interviews ... is his conviction that impoverishment in the power to name experience causes a subsequent impoverishment of consciousness ... since it is only through language transactions with others that the self locates who and where it is."

    Percy struggled with unresolved loss for many years, as I did. Nations, too, struggle with grief and loss, as we did after 9/11 and still do after two long wars in the Middle East. If as individuals we struggle to name our experiences, we also struggle as a nation in our attempts to reconcile our losses. We use words and the silence of our being to locate ourselves among other "living documents" to whom we minister. I pray that nations will continue to do the same.


    Dominic Fuccillo is a CPSP Clinical Chaplain in Littleton, Colorado. Josefina's sculpture has been placed in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral and copies are in the Hiroshima Peace Park, among other locations.