June 10, 2006
Dear Fellow Chaplains,
Three weeks have past since our meeting in Lisbon. For me it seems even longer. One reason is that our meeting was so intense, compounded with many memories and so much that was shared, that it has taken a while for me to assimilate our experience. Another reason is that upon my return to home base, there was a lot of organizing to do both in terms of the “after Lisbon” reality and my own home front.
First, allow me to thank Fr. Nuno and Fr. Vitor, the nuns of the convent, together with all the staff of the Pastoral Health Services of Portugal for all their efforts in making our meeting successful. Those of us who have organized such conferences know the complications involved in having everything work smoothly - and indeed it did! What we all brought back with us was a true experience of hospitality, which has been the basis of spiritual health care throughout the past centuries.
I would also like to thank the past members of the Network Committee (Kirsti, Anne, Anneke, Kathleen and Derek) for the two years of commitment to working hard, not only for the success of our Consultation, but for the growth of our Network. Without their commitment and experience, together with their foresight and encouragement, these two years would have been very difficult.
Again I want to give special thanks to Fred, our webmaster. Fred, I can no longer find words to describe you and all that you have done and continue to do. It is my firm belief that the growth of our Network is mostly due to your genuine friendship.
Let me also welcome the members of the new Network Committee to their new post and congratulate them on their election. I admire all of you for your high qualifications and I am looking forward to working with you.
Finally, I want to extend my thanks to all those who presented special presentations during our sessions. The discussions concerning theology and multicultural issues related to health care were most enlightening. Having our friends, Jo and George from across the Atlantic, was an honour. In all, our sessions gave us a sense that what we do in our separate countries has a broader meaning and effect on the global level.
In leaving Lisbon, I had one major regret: that I was not able to become better acquainted with those of you that had come to the consultation for the first time. My hope is that, in time, I will be able to establish a personal line of communication with all of you and get to know you better. Please accept my apologies if I overlooked you in any way.
At your leisure, I would like to invite all that came to Lisbon to write a short and honest evaluation of the Lisbon Consultation, now that it is all fresh in your minds, and send it to me. This will help the Network Committee plan the next Consultation that will take place in Estonia.
Now that we are in the “after Lisbon” mode, I personally am giving much thought as to what the future steps of the Network should be. Thanks to the preparation done by David Mitchell and the Scottish Chaplaincy, our statement on palliative care is a tool that can be used in many ways on many levels. Our growing relationship with our fellow chaplains in America offers great potential. But most important is that we can and must take future steps in bringing our Chaplaincies closer together.
In closing, let me express my gratitude for the acceptance, support and trust all of you expressed to me throughout the Lisbon meeting. I thank you for your gifts, particularly the gift of your friendship. I was greatly moved by your many outbursts of acceptance. For me, coordinating the Network is not an “administrative position”. It is trying to be sensitive to all that take part in the ENHCC on a personal, organizational, cultural and faith level, bringing these sensitivities together and finding ways in which we can all grow toward a sense of unity, while respecting and trying to understand the reality of our different perspectives. This is a growing experience that has much pain and anxiety, yet a great sense of fulfilment and joy. Over the next two years, I, together with the Ecumenical Patriarchate which I represent, will continue to serve you and the Network in every way with joy in His service.
Humbly asking for your prayers, I remain yours,
With fond memories of our time together,
Fr. Stavros Kofinas
Coordinator of the European Network of Healthcare Chaplaincy
(Representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate)
171 24 Nea Smyrni,