The Deacon's Bench

With more lay people taking on vital roles in American parishes, a church in Illinois has given two vital roles to one lay woman:

“I’m in heaven every day. I love what I do. I wonder why it’s taken so long to find this,” commented Paulette Shea, pastoral minister and parish nurse at SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Naperville.

Seated at a table in her office, she compared the combination of her two roles at the parish to “praying hands.” The 55-year-old woman said, “It’s the health with pastoral ministry, they go hand in hand.”

The two ministries have created a long list of responsibilities, which are blessings for the woman who considers herself “called” to serve her fellow SS. Peter and Paul parishioners and the wider community. Just a few examples include: assisting the Knights of Columbus in hosting a blood drive, offering wellness screenings for a small fee, assisting seniors in navigating the benefits of the Medicare system, facilitating life enrichment programs for seniors, visiting the homebound and checking in on parishioners in the hospital.

The first parish nurse SS. Peter and Paul Parish has had on staff said she relies upon a network of other parish nurses associated with CNS Home Health and Hospice in Carol Stream. She also has established relationships with several non-profit organizations that can help the needy, such as St. Vincent De Paul Society, Naperville CARES, Samaritan Interfaith and Bridge Communities.

Her path to parish nursing began in 1977 as she earned a nursing degree from Triton College in River Grove. For the next three decades, the mother of three adult children served as a nurse in various settings—a hospital, homes and clinics. Her next step into parish nursing was set into motion in 2004 when she completed a parish nursing course at Lewis University in Romeoville and then lobbied for a parish nurse position in her faith community.

Three years later, Father Thomas Milota, pastor of the Naperville parish, praised Shea and her ability to care for the “spiritual and physical health of parishioners.” During a telephone conversation with the Explorer, he described Shea’s dedication and charitable nature. He said, “Paulette is the soul of holiness and exercises a true care for those who are in need.”

Father Milota continued to describe how Shea has developed a unique ministry “through her very gentle example of holiness and her dedication to those who are the most needy in our society. Our Lord himself said, ‘Blessed are the poor and those who are suffering.’ And certainly, Paulette cares for those who carry the cross with our Lord in that way.”

Photo: From the Catholic Explorer, Joliet, IL

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