Ministry to have significant presence at Harvard moral injury conference

February 2024


CHA and some ministry systems are among the partners behind a virtual conference in March that will explore moral injury and trauma and their impacts, how people can heal from this distress and the role of spirituality in that healing.

Presented by the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University, the 2024 World Congress on Moral Injury, Trauma, Spirituality and Healing will take place March 11-13.

Among the dozen-plus partners or sponsors are CHA, Ascension and Providence St. Joseph Health. The Catholic University of America also is a sponsor.

The conference is designed for chaplains, faith leaders, clergy, spiritual care directors, mental health providers, clinicians, health care leaders, wellness professionals, researchers, policy makers and others. Among the topics that presenters will cover are how to identify and assess moral injury and trauma, innovations in treating those ailments, spiritual perspectives on the topic, healing and forgiveness, collective trauma, psychotherapy approaches to trauma, spiritual therapies, clinical perspectives, and techniques to use to improve well-being.

The conference will include a keynote by best-selling author Thomas Moore and remarks from Tyler VanderWeele, director of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard; and Dr. Harold Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University.

Other speakers include:

  • Peter Kilpatrick, president of the Catholic University of America, on the role of Catholic organizations in preventing moral
  • Dr. Arpan Waghray, CEO of Providence Well Being Trust, and Antonina Olszewski, vice president of spiritual care for Ascension, on innovation in providing wellness and spiritual care in health care.
  • Rev. Cathy Chang, director of on-demand spiritual care for Ascension, on how to integrate chaplains into the health care team as part of a panel that will explore strategies in health care for addressing moral distress.
  • William Foster, Trinity Health vice president of spiritual care, on how to integrate spirituality into clinical practice.
  • Jill Fisk, CHA director of mission services; Theresa Vithayathil Edmonson, Providence St. Joseph Health vice president of spiritual health; and film director Michael Collins on mindfulness and meditation.

Fisk says the conference will provide a much-needed platform for discussing the importance of both mental health and spiritual health in recovery from trauma. She says conference organizers hope the event will lead to the creation of a network of spiritual care providers and others who are knowledgeable about spiritual care of abuse survivors. "This is really important work," says Fisk.

The conference is part of a body of work by Jennifer Wortham, research associate with the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard. Her brothers were abused by the family's parish priest decades ago, and Wortham made a promise to her dying grandmother that she would do what she could to address clergy sexual abuse. Wortham has since been investigating and researching the topic and holding events and discussions to raise awareness of the issue. She spoke personally to Pope Francis about the concern. She successfully lobbied the United Nations to create a World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence.

Wortham tells Catholic Health World it is important to her to expand the discourse around moral injury, including to spur discussion of the moral injury to the soul from abuse and how to heal. She says abuse claims numerous victims, and its impacts are far-reaching. She wants spiritual, mental health and clinical care providers to be better trained to prevent such abuse and to help people to heal.


2024 World Congress on Moral Injury, Trauma, Spirituality and Healing

When • March 11-13

Host • Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University

Location • Virtual

Cost • $150 for those not seeking a certificate for their participation, and $250 for those who wish to earn a Certificate of Completion in Trauma Informed Spiritual Care. Those prices will increase as the conference nears.

To learn more and register • Click on “events.”

Copyright © 2024 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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