Spotlight on Faith Community Nursing

By From the Heart | Catholic Culture

Oct 13

Faith Community Nurses have been providing services for over 25 years in collaboration with the St. Cloud Diocese and the St. Cloud Hospital.

History of Faith Community Nursing

  • Parish Nursing began in the United States in the 1970s, when Reverend Granger Westberg, a chaplain in a Lutheran Hospital in Illinois, recognized the need to place healthcare ministry back into the heart of the congregation. There are 15,000 in the US.  Faith Community Nurses function under the American Nurses Association, Faith Community Nurse Scope and Standards of Practice, as a MN Licensed Registered Nurse, in the Specialty of Faith Community Nursing.
  • In Central Minnesota, Sister Michaea Byron, former President of the College of Saint Teresa, Winona, was instrumental in bringing Parish Nursing to this area. U. S Bishops were recommending that dioceses have a Coordinator of Health Ministry, and so then-Bishop John Kinney (now retired) asked Sister Michaea to serve the Diocese of Saint Cloud as Coordinator of Health Ministry. One of her roles was to develop a Parish Nurse Ministry. She worked with the College of Saint Benedict to train Parish Nurses in 1997 for three years. She also brought together a dozen parish nurses of many denominations to begin formally meeting monthly at the St. Cloud Hospital to discuss how they could help minister to the health of their churches. This FCN networking group is still active as the Central MN Faith Community Nurse Ministry Committee.
  • Staffing is a part-time position of Parish Health Ministries Program Coordinator, first in the Diocese of Saint Cloud, until April 2015, when transferred to the Department of Spiritual Care and Mission of the St. Cloud Hospital. The program has been funded by St. Cloud Hospital Community Benefit funds.
  • In 2017, the group received a CentraCare Foundation Grant to send Faith Community Nurses for training to teach the Foundations of Faith Community Nursing Class, at the Westberg Institute in Memphis, TN, and classes are now held in St. Cloud. The Foundations of FCN Class is required for Registered Nurses who want to practice as FCNs in churches. Three classes were held in St. Cloud between April 2018 and May of 2019 and 21 new FCNs were commissioned. The next 38-hour class is in November 2019. Click here for more information.

Meet Kirstie Bingham

Kirstie Bingham

Kirstie Bingham is the Faith Community Nurse at Holy Family Parish, Little Falls. Kirstie provides care in her own church and collaborates with Catholic Churches in Little Falls, the Lutheran Church, Catholic Charities, and the general community of the Little Falls Area of Morrison County.

Kirstie has a background in nursing as the Director of Trauma Services at the St. Cloud Hospital which equipped her with wonderful leadership and nursing skills. She smiles and lights up when she speaks of her calling to be a Faith Community Nurse and her ministry at Holy Family. She is in a tri-parish group of Catholic Churches which include Holy Family, Our Lady of Lourdes in Little Falls, and St. Mary’s in Little Falls.

She and the group of churches hold the Evidence Based Fall Prevention Class with Catholic Charities of St. Cloud, Matter of Balance, in local churches and promote it in her church and the community. She collaborates with five other parish nurses in these churches and another in First Lutheran in Little Falls.  Kirstie reports that in 2018, she made 133 contacts with parishioners in her church in-home visits. She met with her pastor when she started and asked him what he felt was most important for her to do. He wanted her to visit those who could not get to church and to bring communion. She arranged for two other volunteers to be trained to visit and bring communion along with her, so three go out to see faith community members. They let her know when her skills are needed to assess someone’s needs and provide connections to resources.

Kirstie also attends church staff meetings and other committee meetings at church to coordinate Parish Nurse work.  In 2018 she presented a health program on Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness which was attended by 16 church members. She put information in her church bulletin and set up displays on American Heart Month, Poison Prevention, organ donation, stroke prevention, flu prevention and offered Bystander CPR training, for her church members, inviting other churches and the community for training. She met with 24 members to offer nursing counseling for health-related concerns and provided listening support, resources and prayer. She provided the First Aid Station at the parish festival involving other FCNs of the tri-parish community. She did this over 181 hours while traveling 946 miles.

Kirstie obtained her BSN from Moorhead State and in the past worked in ICU, ER and Trauma in North Dakota, California, ending up in Minnesota, and retired from acute care after her 40 plus year career.  She has been a Parish Nurse for 4 years.

Meet Lela Platt

Lela Platt

Lela Platt is the Parish Nurse at three churches she serves in Wadena County, including St. Hubert’s in Bluegrass, Assumption of Our Lady in Menahga, and St. Fredericks in Verndale.

Lela, as the Parish Nurse, facilitates a group of volunteer nurses and lay people in bringing outreach ministry to the churches. She keeps monthly statistics and in May of 2019, nine home visits, and three nursing home visits were made traveling 192 miles and volunteering 12 hours of time. She also made 10 phone calls to coordinate services for parish members. The group of her and other volunteers had a blood pressure screening where BP’s of 6 people were checked, She also led a grief support group for 10 people. She attended a parish council meeting to report on her work and needs, wrote a health article for the bulletin, and they led a rosary at the nursing home for 19 people, traveling 87 miles for this outreach. She is the Parish Nurse Coordinator for the three churches.

Lela graduated from St. John’s School of Nursing in Huron, South Dakota, in 1966, and spent her first year of nursing in a small town hospital in Lusk, Wyoming. She worked in the OR, medical surgery and a clinic ER setting. In 1981, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota and gained nursing home experience for four years. She then worked at the Fargo VA for 16 years as Staff nurse on the mental health as a triage nurse. She took the Parish Nurse course in 1995 at Concordia College and her first Parish Nurse experience was at Nativity Parish in Fargo. In 2009, she was instrumental in starting the Parish nurse Group in her home parish of St. Hubert, Blue Grass.

More about FCNs

Faith Community Nurses have several areas they are trained to work in. They function under specific professional standards of practice developed by the American Nurses Association. Faith community nurses believe that the spiritual dimension is central to their practice. The faith community nurses, in collaboration with the pastor, parish members and the health and wellness committee, will determine which functions will best meet the needs of the parish.

1.  They integrate Faith and Health, promoting understanding of body, mind and spirit in an individual’s health, teaching and praying with people.

2. They provide Personal Health Counseling by listening in confidentiality, with presence and prayer, when discussing health issues.

3.  They provide Health Education, facilitating educational programs and providing materials for individuals and groups to promote better understanding of the relationship of lifestyle, attitude, and faith to wholeness.

4.  They provide Advocacy and Referrals assisting in identifying and accessing community health resources and agencies, promotion local, state, and national issues.  Example:  Lela had the priest, a lawyer, and a funeral home director present a series on end of life and advance care planning.  Each person who attended then could have shared info with other people to spread the information to others.

5.  Leading Support Groups:  Examples: Lela’s group leads a Grief Group, leads those in the nursing home in the rosary, keeping them connected to their church and showing the church’s love and care for them.

6.  Volunteer Facilitation: Kirstie and Lela have a group of people trained in confidentiality and other visitation guidelines, who help with the ministry such as bringing communion to the homebound, visiting those in nursing homes, and other facilities, so many are connecting to members and bringing love and prayer. As Pope Francis said at a Papal Audience March 4, 2016, “We must reawaken our collective sense of gratitude, appreciation and hospitality, helping the elderly know they are a living part of their communities.”

There are over 54 Faith Community Nurses in 35 cities in the Diocese pf St. Cloud and the CentraCare System. To see where they are:

This prayer from the Catholic Health Association is meant for Health Care providers like Faith Community Nurses. I suggest all of us can say it and replace “Encounter each patient”  with “Encounter each person” as we serve each other. A faith community nurse works for the health of faith community members.  All of us can join to work for the health of each other.

A Blessing

from the Catholic Health Association.

Consider your hands, lay then on your lap or on the table in front of you.  Flex your fingers.  Rotate your wrists.

Notice how your hands feel and how they move.  And as you do so, consider the words attributed to Saint Theresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours;

No hands but yours; no feet but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which the compassion

Of Christ must look out on the world. 

Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good.

Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.


Heavenly Father, bless my hands to bless others,

Gentle these hands as they offer comfort to those in

times of crisis.  Purify these hands as they wash in to

Encounter each patient (person).  Open these hands to collaborate

Well for the good of those I serve.  Strengthen these hands

When the mornings are early and the nights are late.

Settle these hands when it is time to rest.



Annette Jesh is the Parish Health Ministries Program Coordinator for CentraCare and works to support Faith Community Nursing in the Diocese and CentraCare System. Annette spent much of her nursing career as a Public Health Nurse in Benton County and as a Faith Community Nurse at Sacred Heart in Sauk Rapids.



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