ESR Spirituality Gathering 2010: A Spirituality of Caring in the Midst of Suffering (Feb. 27, 2010)

A Spirituality of Caring in the Midst of Suffering (Feb. 27, 2010)

In ongoing encounters with human suffering and need, those who help others must find ways of responding so as not to become demoralized, emotionally detached, and burned out. At this year’s Gathering, Dominic Vachon, M.Div., Ph.D., will explain how articulating and cultivating one’s spirituality of caring allows a helper to “metabolize” the toxic encounter with suffering. By finding meaning and energy for the work of compassion, the helper is also able to promote healing for the other. Because attempts at theodicy do not really console those in strenuous helping work, Dr. Vachon will discuss how through cultivating a spirituality of caring, one may avoid despair and maintain a sense of caring in difficult work.

Dominic O. Vachon

Our Keynote Speaker

Dominic O. Vachon, M.Div., Ph.D., is the Director of Behavioral Medicine and Caring Science Training on the faculty of the Family Practice Residency Program at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center. With undergraduate and M.Div. degrees from Notre Dame (1980 and 1985), Dominic Vachon went onto receive a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Loyola University, Chicago, in 1993. His ongoing research has focused on the relationship between empathy and burnout, factors in maintaining caring in difficult work, the psychology of helping interactions, physician-patient dynamics, and the role of spirituality in helping others. Dr. Vachon is a practicing psychologist and is also an adjunct professor in the Theology Department at the University of Notre Dame and Clinical Assistant Professor for the Indiana University School of Medicine.


To register, print and complete the registration form, and send with payment to the address given. For questions contact Mandy Ford or 1-800-432-1377.

Schedule of Events

8:15 am

Registration & Continental Breakfast

8:45 am

Worship: Amy Gall Ritchie

9:30 am

Opening Presentation: Dr. Dominic Vachon, Keynote Speaker

11:00 am


11:15 am

Workshop I

12:30 pm


2:00 pm

Workshop II

3:15 pm


3:30 pm

Closing remarks: Dr. Dominic Vachon, Keynote Speaker


Etty Hillesum: A Story of Love in the Face of Suffering

Etty Hillesum (1914-43), a young Dutch Jewish woman, died in Auschwitz. Through the publication forty years later of her diaries, we have insight into the spiritual journey of this amazing person. In the face of great suffering, Etty discovered an ecumenical vision of God’s love, one exuding inner peace in the most dismal of circumstances. In this workshop, Stephanie Ford, Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at ESR, will reflect on Etty Hillesum’s story, her writings and vision, exploring meanings we might glean for our lives of caring today.

To Journey with Grief

Beginning with a personal reflection, Maureen McCarthy will speak about her own journey with her husband at the end of his life, as well as the loss and grief from her experience as a widow. She will turn to her professional experience as an eldercare chaplain. The workshop will provide insights into the mourning process, as well as suggestions for pastoral care with a person in grief. A 2003 graduate of ESR, Maureen is chaplain at Friends Fellowship Community and is board certified through the Association of Professional Chaplains.

Forgiveness: Gift from God or Gift You Give Yourself? [WORKSHOP CHANGE]

Forgiveness has long been considered a virtue, also a grace from God. Mary Schwendener-Holt, a Richmond psychologist and ESR student, will guide participants in an exploration of the theological gift, as well as the therapeutic benefits of forgiving oneself and others. Participants will learn about recent studies on forgiveness, as well as have an experiential opportunity (through journaling, worksheets, and guided meditation) to work with forgiveness issues around self and other.

Relieving Suffering: Where Christian Prayer and Buddhist Meditation Meet

Have you ever felt sadness and sorrow when you pray or meditate, without knowing why? Have you ever wondered if you might be feeling the pain of others? In this workshop Dave Wunker, an experienced practitioner of Christian prayer and Buddhist meditation, will look at intercessory prayer in the Bible and ways it may intersect with Buddhist meditation practices intended to relieve the suffering we and others face. Dave has an M.A. in Counseling and is pursuing his M.Div. at ESR focused in Spirituality.

Life After the Words: “Incurable Cancer”

In 2006, Sue Axtell was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a rare form of blood plasma cancer. In a discussion format, Sue will share aspects of suffering, theology, and theodicy that have impinged upon her own journey through the landmines of a terminal illness. The ability of the beloved community to minister and share the burden of such knowledge has been a key factor in her experience. Sue is a former mental health nurse, and now is a recorded Friends minister completing her M.Div. at ESR later this year.

Transforming Suffering through the Psalms: An Experiential Workshop

Many of the Psalms express deep pain and suffering, but through our reading and meditation of them, our suffering can be transformed. In this workshop, we will experience the power of the Psalms to transform our suffering from pain into spiritual growth and deeper faith. We will pray with the Psalms, inviting the Spirit to work through our suffering to transform us according to God’s will. Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Meyer serves as the Clerk of Baltimore Yearly Meeting Interim Meeting. Following a leading to memorize the Psalms, she has learned them all.

Look to the Root: The Healing Wisdom of Oriental Medicine

True healing involves a fundamental change at the root of a problem. Dealing with symptoms is temporary. We will discuss, with the help of ancient healing traditions, how to distinguish causes from effects towards greater progress in healing. Kurt Ritchie, M.Div., L.Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist and an ordained minister. Kurt practices Oriental Medicine as a form of ministry, not only to alleviate pain, but also to empower individuals in their own healing.

Caring for the Caregiver: Recovering from Secondary Trauma

None of us is made of Teflon; the pain of others tends to stick to us. Secondary trauma occurs when we witness pain and take it on ourselves. Over time, this accumulated pain can result in burnout. Spiritual caregivers in this workshop will learn how to deal with secondary trauma—establishing compassionate connections with their care recipients, while avoiding emotional enmeshment. Bruce Heckman, Ph.D., has been a counselor for 30 years—including caregivers in high burnout situations. He is completing an M.Div. at ESR with plans to offer spiritual care in healthcare settings.

Expressing the Inexpressible: Poetry of Living, Dying & Grieving

In a poem before his early death, Raymond Carver wrote that what he wanted most in this life was “to feel myself beloved on this earth.” In this workshop we will read the poems of people who have written eloquently about a passage difficult to articulate—what it means to be embodied and dying. We will consider what these poets have to teach us about ministering to the dying and bereaved. Sarah Swift-Simons, a current M.Div. student at ESR, has been involved in hospice for several years and is interested in creativity in the care of the dying and bereaved.

Christian Contemplative Practices in Times of Suffering

Most of us know the experience of doubt at some point—often in periods of great turmoil. We may feel alienated from the comfort we need most: God’s healing love and grace. Contemplative practices are prayerful ways to awaken our spiritual attentiveness to God’s indwelling presence. Such practices can serve as anchors in times of suffering. Dagmar Bollinger is pursuing her M.Div. at ESR, with a passion for developing spiritual formation programs in secular environments. Dagmar will guide participants in “trying on” a couple of contemplative practices and exploring their grace-bearing effects.

The Healing Labyrinth

Experience the healing capacity of the labyrinth. Participants may taste the history of the labyrinth and its multiple potentials. Carrie Drees, completing her M.Div. at ESR with an emphasis in Christian Spirituality, will facilitate this semi-guided walk. Carrie has a passion for labyrinth ministry, which she hopes to give further shape to in the years ahead.

Event Date: 02/27/2010 - 8:15am - 4:00pm