Here is the second in a series of interviews with Christian Science nurses we’ve met through the Dominion Foundation. We are enjoying their insights about the Church Manual By-Law, (Article VIII, Sect. 31) “Christian Science Nurse”, and wanted to share them with you.
Please meet Janet Cocciarelli
Tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, how you were led into Christian Science nursing.
I’m from a small town in northern Michigan and after college and graduate school, I worked for about 15 years in philanthropy – in the professional field of grant-making. I was deeply satisfied in my work. I absolutely loved it, and I had no intention of ever leaving the philanthropic world.
Then, I was at a Christmas party one snowy evening where I met two Christian Science nurses. Before that evening, I had never met anyone that had served in that capacity so I was very interested and asked those two Christian Science nurses lots of questions. I had studied the Church Manual and seen the Bylaw for the Christian Science nurse. But like many people, I went right past it.
These nurses spoke about the great need for volunteers at our local Christian Science nursing facility. I thought ‘I can do this. I can serve as a volunteer.’ So, every day when I left my office, I would drive there and serve trays, or read to patients, or play the piano and sing hymns. I just loved it and after several months, I realized I wanted to expand my support of the Cause of Christian Science by becoming a Journal-listed Christian Science nurse and serving my fellow Christian Scientists in their time of need.
Right before this, I had completed challenging additional training in my field. My husband even said to me a little incredulously, ‘Are you sure you want to leave your career for Christian Science nursing?’ I was sure. I left my job, where I was about to be on my way to Africa, and, instead, was on my way to Boston for training. It has been satisfying on a whole different level.
Why minister in the field — in homes?
My attraction to and support for providing Christian Science nursing in the home stem from watching three generations of women in my own family being cared for in the home by family members. We cared for them in their homes because they loved their homes and wanted to remain there. In addition to being very comfortable and secure surrounded by family and pets, they appreciated the privacy and peace of their homes. They felt it was a healing comfortable atmosphere.
And I love working in a home because I enjoy providing that one-on-one care according to a peaceful rhythm that works for both the patient and myself. I appreciate the flexibility that comes with private duty nursing which allows me to provide a whole host of care options that are best for the patient at that time. If they want to take a shower at 9:00 at night, we can do that.
I also love seeing the patient in their regular routine, helping them to keep their home clean, and supporting thoughtful interaction with family members, church friends, their neighbors, and the Christian Science practitioner as appropriate. I think private duty nursing allows you to really dig in and help the patient with many aspects of their life, not just physical care, until they are able to resume those duties.
What is your favorite part of the Christian Science Nurse By-Law?
Christian Science Nurse. Sect 31. A member of The Mother Church who represents himself or herself as a Christian Science nurse shall be one who has a demonstrable knowledge of Christian Science practice, who thoroughly understands the practical wisdom necessary in a sick room, and who can take proper care of the sick.
Church Manual, Article VIII, Sect. 31
I love this part – “one who has a demonstrable knowledge of Christian Science practice.” I love it because someone who has been able to demonstrate in their own experience the efficacy of Christian Science healing has reached a mental level of understanding God as our Father-Mother, as our creator, and of His goodness that allows that person to relinquish a belief in any other power over his or her own condition. When you have been able to demonstrate healing consistently in your own life, that is the powerful gift you have to share with another as a Christian Science nurse.
Having outstanding Christian Science nursing skills is so beneficial but if those skills don’t stem from and accompany a demonstrable knowledge of Christian Science practice, then the Christian Science nurse is shortchanging himself or herself and the patient.
To me, “demonstrable knowledge” is an absolute unwavering trust in God and man, in that sacred relationship between Principle and its idea. It is a confidence that God is ever-present and helping the patient just as He is helping the Christian Science nurse to work out his or her own salvation right at that moment.
Tell us about an inspiring experience you’ve had, either while taking classes or while ministering as a Christian Science nurse.
I was helping a patient who didn’t appear to be very active and had very limited mobility. She talked to me about all the sports activities she had been involved in, especially as a swimmer. As she talked, she lit up and was so proud of the incredibly dedicated athlete she had been. The suggestion was that she could not be mobile again. There was a great suggestion of fear.
I was convinced that God had not changed and therefore His activity as man had never altered. Mrs. Eddy says that “Mind is the source of all movement . . .” * I knew that she could have courage and faith in God as well.
I gently began asking her if she would like to start practicing the art of walking with me. At first, there was great hesitation. But as she stood up and walked with the mobility aid, we continually and firmly claimed her freedom of mobility, that God rests in action and is expressed as man’s activity. After practicing in the home for some days, I asked if she like to try walking outside. The area around her home was very hilly but before long, she was walking two miles a day up and down those hills. I was so inspired by God’s allness.
* Science and Health 283:4 to ,