From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Spokane Multifaith AIDS teams matched to new care partners

by Scott Cooper, for the Inland Register

(From the July 5, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

Volunteers from several local faith communities who make up the Spokane Multifaith AIDS Careteams (or SMACs) are getting to know a new set of care partners this summer as their ministry moves into a new phase. The program, an outreach of Catholic Charities, had been on hiatus until new care partners were found.

The care teams were formed early in 2000 in response to the need from people living with HIV/AIDS to have a pastoral presence and a group of caring neighbors around them. The Diocesan HIV/AIDS Ministry originally came together to minister to the families of those with the disease. The families often felt isolated from their usual contacts and support networks because of stigmas associated with HIV and AIDS.

As volunteers stepped forward and training took place at St. Aloysius Parish, the committee directing the project contacted local agencies working with HIV/AIDS patients. The Spokane AIDS Network and the Spokane Regional Health District expressed a pressing unmet need for volunteers to “walk with” those suffering from the disease and to minister to their emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

As a result of their suggestions, each care team was matched with a care partner, a person living with HIV or AIDS, in the spring of 2000. Each care team involved six to eight people from different denominations in the life of a person struggling with illness and the social difficulties related to HIV/AIDS.

Care team members spend time with the care partner, celebrate birthdays and holidays, keep in contact through notes and phone calls to encourage and befriend the patient and may pray with that person if he or she wishes. At that time Gail Lancaster coordinated the care teams.

A second training last November at Temple Beth Shalom brought more interested volunteers into the program and onto existing care teams.

By the end of 2000, each care partner had died from AIDS-related illnesses. This was a crucial moment for the care team members, not only in their pastoral care for the person they had come to know, but also for their own future. After reflection, prayer and regrouping, each care team opted to seek out another care partner with whom to “walk” in their journeys.

In their capacity as volunteers, care team members do not provide any medical care. Their ministry is one of presence and attention.

Bill Stanaway, of St. Ann Parish, has recently come on board as the new coordinator of the SMACs. He said he looks forward to another training in the fall of 2001 to provide an opportunity for new volunteers to learn about the program and to form new careteams. Persons interested in this ministry can call the diocesan social ministries office: 358-4273.

(Cooper is director of the Diocesan Social Ministries Office.)

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