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June 2019 Newsletter

Director's Note, Interview with Sheila Siebert, FCN, of Sacred Heart, Did you know?, Upcoming Events, and Devotional.

Health Ministries Network (HMN) is a non-profit that initiates, develops and supports faith based health ministry in northwest Washington.

Dear HMN community,

Many of us attended the WWU’s Palliative Care Institute’s 2019 Conference, Treating the Whole Person, on May 17. It was an exceptional conference, with speakers from Seattle Children’s, Mary Bridge Hospital Tacoma, and University of Portland, touching on topics such as caring for the whole person, palliative care for children and youth, and embracing cultural humility. A special thanks to the organizers and to the Jean Billings Tischler Fund for supporting FCN scholarships. It was an emotional day for some, especially since we had just learned of Jeanne Brotherton’s passing.

Our monthly meeting on Friday, June 21 will include a devotional and opportunity to share about Jeanne during the latter half of the meeting. The first part will feature members from Whatcom Family YMCA’s Chronic Disease Prevention team, who will share about their programs, and a report back from the Westberg Institute (the international agency for Faith Community Nursing) from Carol Nicolay. Please join us!

As a reminder, monthly meetings will go on hiatus in July and August. We’ll be back with a kick-off in September!

One final note, faith communities are stepping up to aid migrant families who are exhausted, homeless and without transportation at the southern border. In some locations 1,200-1,500 migrants are crossing each day, mostly families. A faith community nurse recently shared the personal account of her nursing director who visited the southern border with Mexico. Here’s a list of churches (with stories) and how you can contribute through donations, volunteering or advocacy:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,” Matthew 25:35

Walk in love,


Executive Director



Sheila Siebert, FCN

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Bellingham

Tell me about your health ministry.

At Sacred Heart we have what’s called the home-bound ministry. I lead a team of 10 non-nurses spanning a number of different occupations. We visit parishioners who aren’t able to attend church, both at their houses and at nursing homes.

We typically bring holy communion to those we visit, which is a significant gift to home-bound parishioners, but we also use the visit as a way to check in on them health-wise. We’ll observe how the home looks, if there are any apparent health issues, and see if they require transportation or food.

Why do you do health ministry?

Mother Theresa says, “the fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace.” Every morning I read through a meditation book of hers and I read this quote. It’s her philosophy and it’s my philosophy.

I’ll be 80 next Sunday and I have a bad hip and bad knees, but as long as I can do it, I’m gonna do it. And it’s not just me, it’s a parish, it’s a cooperation. Whatever need I see, there’s someone in the parish who I can call.

Do you have any stories of when health ministry made an impact?

Yes, I have three.

There was one lady who ushered at the church. I hadn’t seen her in a couple weeks, so I decided to give her a call. When I reached her, she told me she wasn’t sure if she had taken her medication or eaten. I visited her and she was totally different, not her usual self. She was confused about food and medication and the kitchen looked like it hadn’t been used. I suspected she had been that way for a couple of days. I made her soup and called her children to explain the situation.

The next day her children took her to the doctor, and she was diagnosed with dementia. At this point it was obvious she couldn’t be alone, so I set up a system with her kids. One daughter stayed with her and the other siblings acted as respite. I visited twice a week during that time as she rapidly declined.

At this point hospice was called in and helped the family care for her in her own home. It was her wish to die at home. I was there when she passed. I arranged a prayer service for her which was held at the funeral prior to the funeral mass.

There was another lady who I knew from the flower committee at Sacred Heart. She was about 45 and ended up having cancer of the gallbladder. Her doctor said that the cancer was not able to be removed as it was stuck to her liver.

I was there [at the doctor's visit] and this came as a great shock to her and her husband. I visited again two days later, and the hospital’s palliative care team came in. I was appalled by their treatment of the situation as they proceeded to tell this woman that her cancer was not curable and advised her and her husband to look at hospice care. They were furious and told the palliative care team not to visit them again.

They opted to see a liver specialist in Seattle and began chemotherapy. I drove her to her appointments that year and eventually the CEA test indicated she was cancer free. The next two years after that she was very active; involved at Sacred Heart and working full-time.

In a follow up appointment her blood work indicated that the cancer had returned. She began seeing a specialist in Sedro Wooley. Her husband was very supportive as she began another round of therapy which was ultimately unsuccessful. Eventually she was homebound, though her husband’s job allowed him to work from home as he cared for her. Finally, she needed more care and we advised her to move to hospice house. She agreed and that’s where she died. We held a mass in her honor.

This lady really loved orchids and pink so one of her friends ordered orchids and pink decorations. Her friend who ordered all these things ended up going to California to care for her ill father, so another parishioner and I arranged all the orchids with pink decorations. Everyone had a good laugh because I am known for disliking orchids. A few weeks after her funeral mass, the family chartered a boat. Over 75 parishioners, her family, and the priest went out onto the water near Chuckanut bay where she was buried at sea.

38 years ago, I sponsored two polish families who immigrated to Bellingham. At the time there was a solidarity movement in Poland among those such as nurses, mechanics, and factory workers who were striking and performing demonstrations. The communist party opposed their desire to form a union and secure a higher wage. Families active in the solidarity movement were then forced to either go to prison or leave the country. 15 or so of these families moved to Bellingham and I sponsored two of them.

They arrived with suitcases only, no money, and they did not speak English. I got them housing. The parish collected furniture and funds for them. I got their kids into school and signed them all up for public assistance as well as English classes. The parishioners would drive them to all these types of appointments. After three months, the two men and women from each family got jobs.

About five years ago, one of the polish women found a large lump on her abdomen. I suggested she see her doctor. A biopsy showed that she had cancer of the bowel. I went to the surgeon with her and her husband. Three days after surgery she suffered a major stroke, which we found out was due to a hole between the chambers in her heart she had never known about. The stroke made it very difficult for her to walk. Her grandson drew a picture of her labeled, “this side works, this side does not.”

The rehab team at the hospital was very negative about the possibility of recovery, advising use of incontinent supplies and a wheelchair. However, she was determined to get better, to walk.

Sometimes in the medical industry we make a judgement without taking into account what the person wants. I visited her every other day during recovery. For speech, it was suggested that we sing songs. I said we’d need to close the doors if I was going to do any singing. Eventually, this woman walked out of the hospital, no wheelchair and no walker. She was determined and so was her family. We’ve got to look at the whole picture.

She was seen at Swedish hospital and the hole in her heart was closed. One year went by and she was healthy, though she did have to retire from her job due to the stroke. Then, on a visit to her oncologist, her CEA was elevated and she subsequently started chemotherapy. Usually in chemo there is a portacath placed with the chemo drugs plugged in to the port, but she refused to have this. That meant that with each treatment they had to find a vein.

Six months later a tumor was discovered in her liver. She was referred to Virginia Mason to a liver specialist and had surgery to remove the tumor which was very successful. All seemed to be going well for about a year, then her CEA was elevated again. She was then told that the situation wasn’t going to get better, she was terminal. She was advised to consider hospice care.

At this point I suggested she get a second opinion at Cancer Care Alliance. They told her she should go into hospice. The family was devastated with all she had gone through. The family, namely the son, started to research alternative therapy. Eventually, they found a naturopath in Canada who prescribed a sugar-free, all organic diet some vitamins and herbs. Three years later she is cancer free, checking in with her oncologist for lab work and scans. It must be noted that many prayers were offered up for her recovery.

What's the significance of these stories?

In these last two stories, both women had a goal of regaining health and were positive about that. Both were put down by the medical community. One was not successful, one was.

We need to take the person where they are at. The women from the first story with dementia was ready to go. She was older, had a good life behind her, and the love of her kids. She was ready. The other two were young. It’s important to take the person where they are, not where we think they should be.

All too often the medical community is pessimistic, and staff and doctors don’t listen to what the patient wants. When I visit someone in our homebound ministry, I ask what I can do for them. What do they need? What do they want? Do they want surgery? Do they want to stay at home? You have to be comfortable in asking.

Remarks from Sheila's colleagues:

"Sheila is a caring, loving person who thinks of others before herself. She is always there whenever anyone needs assistance regarding health care or finding ways to seek out the best facility, making sure transportation is available or providing it herself."

- Marylin Cunningham, FCN

"Sheila has devoted her life to Sacred heart parish. She is a faith-filled, remarkable women. She takes communion to the home bound on Sunday afternoons. She grows beautiful dahlias in her garden to decorate the church. She helps with the St. Vincent DePaul society. She organizes funeral receptions for the dearly departed. Sheila is like the energizer bunny. She just keeps going, and going, and going.

- Anni Martinek, FCN

"Our parish is so fortunate to have Sheila. She is loved by all. Sheila with Mary Spencer was instrumental in getting an AED at Sacred Heart and setting up first aid supplies. She does not overlook or forget anybody or anything. A gracious lady. Thank you Sheila, with all sincerity."

- Mary Ursin HM

Interviewed by Sampson Alvarado on April 23, 2019.


Did You Know?

The Health Ministries Network website is full of health ministry resources.

Health Ministries Network is addressing Whatcom County's need for Transitional Care

Our Who We Are video showcases what faith community nurses and health ministers are doing in northwest Washington.


Upcoming Events

Diabetes Prevention Program at the Whatcom Family YMCA

Tuesdays, 5:30-6:30pm starting June 4

Unity Care NW, 220 Unity St, Bellingham, WA 98225

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program helps adults at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles by eating healthier, increasing physical activity and losing a modest amount of weight in order to reduce their chances of developing the disease. If you would like information on next session of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, please click here for our contact form or email your contact information to Tara Marshall, or call, 360-354-5000.

LiveStrong at the Whatcom Family YMCA

Mondays & Wednesdays, May 6 - July 29 (no class May 27), 1 - 2:30pm

Bellingham YMCA, 1256 N State St, Bellingham, WA 98225

Offered for FREE, this 12-week program (two 90-minute sessions each week) helps cancer survivors build muscle mass and strength; increases flexibility and endurance; improves confidence and self-esteem; and fosters a community of support. Participants work with Y staff trained in supportive cancer care to safely achieve goals, and they will develop their own fitness plan, so they can continue to practice a healthy lifestyle, not only as part of their recovery, but as a way of life. Contact Tammy Bennett for more information: 360-255-0490 or

Rock Steady Boxing for Parkinson's

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 9 -10:30am

Bellingham YMCA Racquetball Courts 2&3, 1256 N State St, Bellingham, WA 98225

Boxing works by moving your body in all planes of motion while continuously changing the routine as you progress through the workout. These classes have proven that anyone, at any level of Parkinson’s, can actually lessen their symptoms and lead a healthier/happier life. $100/month (includes YMCA Membership). Financial Assistance is available. For more information, contact Tracy Diehl, or 360-255-0445.


Wednesday, June 5, 6pm – 7:30pm St. Luke's Health Education Center, 3333 Squalicum Parkway Bellingham, WA Rebecca Rech Cutler, BSN, RN, CRRN, CHPN, will present in frank terms the meanings of advanced medical interventions, and what their outcomes could mean for patients in the short and long term. Advanced care planning, advance directives, and the importance of palliative care are discussed. Interactive, Q&A. Rebecca has experience as Whatcom Hospice & Home Health nurse.

HMN: Monthly Meeting: YMCA Programs, Westberg Symposium Report Back and Devotional for Jeanne Brotherton

Friday, June 21, 11am – 1pm First Congregational Church, 2401 Cornwall Ave, Bellingham, WA 98225 Tara Marshall of the Whatcom Family YMCA, will join us to share about the programs they offer including Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), Actively Changing Together (ACT!), Enhance Fitness and Livestrong. The YMCA would like to explore partnering with faith communities and wants hear from you about your congregations’ needs and interest. We'll also hear from Carol Nicolay on her recent visit to the Westberg Institute. The latter half of the meeting will include a devotional and sharing about Jeanne Brotherton, who passed away in May. This meeting is free and all are welcome. A light lunch will be provided.

Upcoming Events allows anyone to share relevant events with the network. Add an event to the HMN calendar at



Courtesy of Rev. Dr. Cindy Bauleke, Health Ministries Network Board of Directors Spiritual Adviser

There is something sacred in sharing our stories. Recently I had the privilege of attending the dedication of the latest class of faith community nurses, hosted by Health Ministries Network. Before the ceremony I got to sit in on these eleven women sharing their final projects, which included their call stories. They were inspiring!

While all were nurses, they represented a diversity of life experiences as well as a variety of faith communities. There was a representative from Synagogue Beth Israel, one from Chelan, one from a new church start in South Lake Union area of Seattle, another from Tacoma. Two migrated to the United States when they were young. Several of the local women were new to Bellingham. They have done all kinds of nursing and some are still nursing full time even as they volunteer to be faith community nurses.

Their personal stories, while so different, all had common elements. These nurses are of course skilled, caring, compassionate people. They have worked hard to overcome incredible challenges in their lives. They have struggled with God’s call in their lives and have found a variety of ways to respond. There was laughter and tears and awe as each person shared the story which brought her to this ministry. Some struggled with completing the homework of the course along with all the demands of life. Everyone who started the course completed it! Each one had given much of themselves in the learning process. They have bonded as a group and intend to support each other as they go out to share their gifts and skills.

Do you remember that excitement of having completed something challenging? Of embarking on an exciting, and perhaps, a little terrifying new path? Perhaps you are facing a new challenge or path in your own life? If so, you can empathize with these faith community nurses. Now they bring their wealth of experience to serve others of their community as they minister to mind, body, and spirit.

As we welcome these newly pinned members into our Health Ministries Network, it is my prayer that they will be accepted and honored by their faith communities. They will find colleagues among you who have walked this path before them and now alongside of them. They will bring healing to our hurting world as well as healing and wholeness for themselves. It is a privilege to be called, and to care for others. It can be fulfilling, if sometimes frustrating. Yet as long as we remember we are not alone, much is possible.

I will take with me this prayer from the dedication service and hope it may be a blessing for you as well:

Spirit of All, by your presence, light up the past, that we might learn from it with thankfulness.

Light up the present, that we might live in it with love.

Light up the future, that we might prepare for it in hope.

As we watch and wait and pray,

May we always be ready to encounter the Spirit who is already and always with us.

Rev. Dr. Cindy Bauleke, Spiritual Adviser, Health Ministries Network Board of Directors

Rev. Dr. Cindy Bauleke

Spiritual Adviser

Health Ministries Network Board of Directors

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