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Parish Ministry & Church Groups

Capacitar in Ministry
Thelma Newby, RN, PhD, SET Ministry
Empowerment Program, Milwaukee

Three of the most positive aspects of the self-healing techniques we are learning in the CAPACITAR Training are: their flexibility to allow for implementation across diverse populations and ages; the ease of teaching and learning the techniques; and their effectiveness.

I am working with two groups on my practicum. The first includes co-workers who are nurses, social workers and support staff at SET Ministry, that involves outreach to the poor and underserved who are exposed to violence. This group is very receptive to the materials I presented including finger holds, hand massage, acupressure points, active listening, visualization and relaxation breathing. We are exploring ways to integrate the techniques into our daily practice with the people we serve in all the settings in which we work.

The second practicum group is made up of six elderly African-American women who live in city housing that I work with on a weekly basis. The women range in age from 70 to 90 years old and were reluctant to try some of the techniques. They were a very religious group and some believed Tai Chi was New Age and did not want to try it. I described the movements as energizing and ways to improve their balance and possibly prevent falls. The women were willing to use the finger holds and acupressure as ways to manage stress. They enjoyed the breathing and visualization exercises most. An example of the ways in which these practices are having an impact on those I am teaching was provided by one of the nurse participants:

"Balancing emotions using finger holds is something new and fascinating to me. I've added it to my daily morning routine. It is working well; however, to my surprise it takes noticeably longer for me to release my middle finger (anger/rage). The person that I am prefers to work on compromise rather than be angry or fight. After several weeks of using the finger holds my middle finger releases almost in the same amount of time as the others. I have also made the effort to assess myself for angry feelings I may be avoiding or denying."

Capacitar Practices in Mission Work
Karen Woehler of Crosby, MN

Karen Woehler completed the CAPACITAR training program at The Center to BE with the intention of sharing the practices she learned with her US Presbyterian church colleagues in their ministry work in Guatemala. She has done just that for the past six years. With her collaborator Maribel Perez, she developed Salud Integral in Guatemala, an integrated health program for persons to care for themselves, to be empowered. Karen provided a health and biblical message to the project and Maribel supplied the cultural knowledge.

During the past Summer, Karen brought together her knowledge of mission work and CAPACITAR practices to help prepare a new generation of volunteers who will serve in the US and other countries. Her first experience was in response to an invitation to meet with a group of 15 young women in St. Paul, MN. They were beginning a one-year commitment in the St. Joseph Workers Program, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Through this program, the women live in community and work for social change in a variety of non-profit agencies serving people in need in that city. As part of their orientation, Karen taught these volunteers several simple practices including finger holds and the Emotional Freedom Technique. She demonstrated how these practices would be helpful in managing the stresses of adapting to new living and working situations and how they could be taught easily to the clients and patients with whom the volunteers would be working over the next year.

Next, Karen traveled to Louisville, KY, to participate in preparing 30 recent college graduates for a variety of international mission posts through Presbyterian Church USA. She spent a full day with them at the end of their intense orientation period. They learned some of the simple practices to use to alleviate the symptoms of their own stress and to share with the people they would be serving. "Learning these practices was a welcome release from the heavy, heady information they had been processing," Karen said. "We went outside to do some of the practices, including the stretches of Pal Dan Gum. They had a lot of fun while they were learning and experienced a lightening of their energy."

Through this work, several dozen young people are now better prepared to keep themselves balanced and healthy as they selflessly minister to others. From these experiences, Karen also sees a new role for herself in presenting "tasters" of the CAPACITAR practices for special interest groups and is eager to do more.

Capacitar Practices with a Parish Group
Alan and Leanore Rommelfanger, Wisconsin

Leanore: After working part-time for several years I am now a homemaker again, mother of six children, grandmother of six, doing volunteer work and one-on-one mentoring.Alan: I have recently retired after working 33 years for large corporations in systems, project management, management, and organizational development.

We both have done retreat work and worked extensively with prayer groups and small faith sharing groups primarily in Catholic parish settings. We chose to work with a group in our parish. The program was announced in the parish bulletin and it was open to anyone who wanted to attend. Those attending were middle-aged men and women. We were new members of this parish and wanted to introduce ourselves and get to know others. Some of the challenges we encountered were we had no idea how many to expect and we had no idea of the background of the participants.

At our first session we worked on breathing, introduced Tai Chi, and gave a brief explanation of the Capacitar organization. Tai Chi was very well received and was included in all subsequent sessions. Two additional sessions included acupressure, guided, visualization, and listening.

Based on input from our training group we developed a program for Advertising the theme, "Advent is a Season of Vision." We pursued a search for our own personal vision through four sessions that wove together the Sunday readings, Capacitar healing practices and an exercise for getting in touch with our personal vision. The Capacitar healing practices taught were Tai Chi, breathing, intuitive journaling, an energy mandala, finger holds, acupressure, mandala drawing, and the River of Life.

Our Lenten program used the theme "Why are we on the planet Earth, a search for our mission." It included Sunday readings, healing practices, exercises for getting in touch with our personal mission. Healing practices taught were: breath work, finger holds, acupressure, visualization, the River of Life, an introduction to the chakras, and some simple massage techniques.

At the invitation of our daughter, who is at the Newman Center at the university, we were invited to present this program to students and adults. We are also doing a half-day workshop, introducing the chakras, at our parish. With this workshop we are experimenting with an alternative format in the parish setting.

We have incorporated some of the healing techniques, when appropriate, into a prison ministry at the Women's Prison. The women especially appreciate guided visualizations and techniques to deal with negative emotions.

The following are comments from some of the participants in these sessions:

"I was expecting classes...I was happy to find that it was not so structured. It provides a very relaxed atmosphere."

"Another quiet evening - putting aside the cares of the day and focusing in on God's word and His presence in those around us."

"I found doing the Tai Chi movements most helpful and getting the history and explanation of Capacitar."

"You did very well, such a relaxed atmosphere, soft-spoken and very comforting."

"The relaxing way all the material was presented - done with grace and genuine desire to share."

"Loved being in a circle, it felt as though we were all working for the same cause. It takes you outside of yourself."

"The movements brought a sense of peace and tranquility."

"The background music helped me to focus and keep from moving too quickly."

"I think this is excellent. It's a great way to tie your week to God."

"I realized how much I really need quiet reflection moments in my day."

"I really appreciated what a gift it is to be able to breathe fully and completely."

Parish Group of Women with Chronic Illness
Ann Kelley, OSF, Spiritual Director, Wisconsin

The group I targeted for the Capacitar sessions included women who have chronic illnesses, are limited in their energy and ability to work, can be depressed, and who need to access resources for living more balanced and healthy lives. Most of the participants are members of women's spirituality groups which I facilitate. Since others not chronically ill were interested in learning the self-healing practices, I opened the sessions to them as well. I chose to invite the chronically ill to sessions, realizing that some of the practices I learned from Capacitar training could enable them to feel more positive about themselves, give them new energy for living and be means of healing body, mind, spirit and heart. I also felt compassion for them and knew that the practices of Capacitar would offer them a vital gift.

A challenge included dealing with a flexible group determined by the current health conditions of participants. Because of their illness or tiredness some were unable to attend sessions to which they had previously committed themselves. Also due to lack of stamina during the process some needed to take breaks while the rest of the group continued on with practices. I needed to be continually sensitive to the permanent physical limitations of particular members and to encourage them not to push themselves beyond their capacity.

The pastor of the church facility we first used asked me to approach the workshops from a Christian healing perspective which would be in line with the parish mission. I was easily able to honor this request incorporating Scripture texts, prayers and songs which focused on Jesus as healer. I still continue this though we have moved to another building.

The practices I taught included Listening to the Body - a visualization for centering with music, Pal Dan Gum, Breathwork, Tai Chi, Drum Massage, Circle Massage, the River of Life: Visualization and the Poem on the River of Life, Simple Acupressure points, Meeting the Inner Guide, Hand Massage, Finger Holds, Seated Massage, Holding the Energy Field, Healing Circle, Teaching about chakras, Chakra T'ai Chi, the Finger Labyrinth and Thought Field Therapy. We repeated Pal Dan Gum, Tai Chi, Drum Massage, Chakra Tai Chi and the Healing Circle at various sessions.

The outcomes of the sessions included: Participants were more relaxed, felt their spirits were elevated, and were more at peace, learned the T'ai Chi practices to incorporate them in their daily lives, felt better psychologically, used the finger holds to reduce stress and anxiety, felt their pain was reduced during sessions and were always eager to learn more. To date I have held seven sessions, the first two having been one and one half hours in duration, the next five sessions were one and a quarter hours each. We began at a church site and later moved to a retirement center for a group of religious women. Because we moved our location, we picked up a few new persons, residents in the center. The number of participants varied from three for one session to ten for another. As mentioned above, the group changed in number because of various reasons, one being the current health problems individuals were experiencing. This often meant I needed to be aware that some of the participants had not been taught some of the T'ai Chi or Pal Dan Gum movements which others had learned. Also each time we needed to review some of the previously taught movements because participants did not always remember particulars. At their request I provided for them sheets describing the various Tai Chi movements. Participants were open and enthusiastic to learn new self healing and empowering practices. Frequently they would share how they had used their new learnings between sessions. Some taught others what they discovered to be most healing and integrating.

Comments from Participants:

"My body feels better after what we have done today. I am more relaxed and hurting less."

"I did feel tired and somewhat tense and stressed when I came. I feel less tension and more at peace."

"Chakra Tai Chi was the most helpful to me today. It helps me be aware of the energy sources."

"The repetitive movements of Tai Chi are helpful even though my shoulder is painful for a time afterward."

"Chakra Tai Chi helped most by moving the most muscles while breathing deep."

"The rocking front and back helped my back."

"My headache went away."

"I will use touch more with my hospice patients."

"I am much more confident in my own capabilities, more eager to be of help to others."

"My body is vibrating with energy. I was tired when I came."

"I have been using the chakra Tai Chi in conjunction with my prayer time. It helped me greatly yesterday when I was the guest on a TV program. Didn't feel like that was something I could do, but I did it! !"