Sowing Seeds of New Life!
Like a living, breathing entity, the Maria College Bereavement Program continues to grow and develop. Unprecedented changes in all spheres of human endeavor have heightened awareness of physical, symbolic and disenfranchised loss. Feedback from a vastly diverse student body continues to be superlative; the operative word is “transformational,” in terms of both personal and professional life enhancement. Requests for information are coming from across the country, the most recent having been from a colonel in the United States Army in Afghanistan!
In the spirit of the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, who was sensitive and responsive to the signs of the times, we are in the process of having specially trained instructors adapt to escalating requests by designing meaningful, creative and academically challenging online courses. Two of the four required courses, Children and Death and Death, Dying and Bereavement are already online, and the support group course consists of two- thirds online information and one-third face-to-face experiential training.
Distance learning variations of our spirituality courses are also being explored. One option is that of having students come to Maria for four to six days, to meet face-to-face with instructors, receive orientation, and participate in lectures and experiential exercises. Subsequently, independent study will ensue with the aid of one or more textbooks and an accompanying workbook. The experience will culminate in a final exam and submission of a portfolio of assignments. Like our face-to-face courses, the newly created options will include academic input, experiential exercises and opportunities for self-reflection, integrating both the cognitive and creative centers of the brain.
In addition, the Maria College faculty committee has approved our request to add three relevant courses to our elective alternatives: Family Dynamics and Bereavement, Cinematic Grief and Cultural Diversity and Bereavement. Existing offerings may also be expanded to include contemporary issues, including the Traumatic Grief course, which will address issues of grief and loss experienced by veterans and their families.
As the program grows, we constantly seek input to enable us to improve. Our program was recently reviewed by Moya Dittmeier, affiliated with the Mercy Higher Education Consortium, an association of 20 Mercy-sponsored colleges and universities across the country. Dittmeier had high praise for the uniqueness of our program, including its depth and breadth, as well as its congruence with gospel values and the Mission of Mercy. In the light of our emphasis on spirituality, the provision of opportunities for students to heal their own losses through courses such as Soul-Searching, and the ministerial outreach of both students and faculty in arenas beyond the Maria College campus, she indicated a heightened awareness of the multifaceted nature of our program. Dittmeier concluded, “You deserve national recognition!”
Another way that our program has embraced change is that bereavement students may earn credit toward their certification through a form of independent study called “service learning.” Aware of the need to integrate academic education and clinical experience, Maria offers credit for service learning in settings such as hospices, at Wave Riders and Camp Erin, which are experiences for grieving children, and at the Joan Nicole Prince Hospice House in Schenectady. Four Maria bereavement students have had the opportunity to take a unit of clinical pastoral education at Albany Medical Center Hospital, where they have practiced their bereavement skills under the supervision of Harlan Rattmeier, Director of Spiritual Care.
For more information on any facet of Maria’s Bereavement Studies Program, contact Sister Jean Roche, RSM, at email@example.com or 518.438.3111, ext. 233.
Posted in Health & Wellness