Shelton's St. Joseph Church's has vital role in parish nursing program

As the Griffin Hospital Valley Parish Nurse Program celebrates its 25th anniversary this October, it gives special credit to St. Joseph Church in Shelton for being one of the trailblazers for this community health program.

In 1990, under the guidance and support of the Rev. Robert Weiss and Sister Alice Keating, the St. Joseph Parish Nurse Program started with a burst of enthusiasm.

Marianne Martone spearheaded the program and was joined by Linda Gorel a year later as co-coordinator. The two women led a group of 26 parishioners, nurses, EMTs, and therapists in embracing and fulfilling the Parish Nurse Program’s mission to provide “whole person healthcare” by providing health education and information on area healthcare services.

“Having a parish nurse as part of a congregation’s ministry ensures the church is looking after people’s emotional and physical needs as well as their spiritual concerns,” Gorel said.

“If we look at the ministry of Jesus, that was a ministry that began in almost every instance with physical healing, because the physical was connected to the spiritual, the emotional and the total well-being of the person," she said.

Active involvement

St. Joseph was not one of the original five parishes that started the Valley Parish Nurse program in 1989. It joined a year later, but few have been as active as the Shelton parish.

The Valley Parish Nurse Program was the first in New England and has grown to more than 40 churches and hundreds of active nurses and health cabinet members at parishes in Shelton, Derby, Ansonia, Seymour, Oxford, Naugatuck, New Haven, Waterbury, Meriden, Middlebury, Southbury and Hamden.

Weekly office hours

From its beginning, the St. Joseph Parish Nurse Program has offered weekly office hours, monthly blood pressure screenings after Masses, home visits, health counseling, education programs and referral services to not just the parish, but to anyone in the community.

The program organizes many memorable programs, including the Valentine Ladies Luncheon, where program volunteers take care of the ladies who always are the caretakers for others; men’s health programs, health fairs for children, CPR and first aid training, grief support groups and smoking cessation groups.

Also, Al-Anon meetings, and a weight loss support, as well as visits to home-bound and nursing home parishioners and the first aid tent at the church’s annual carnival.

Special celebration

St. Joseph’s Parish Nurse Program will be one of several members celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Valley Parish Nurse Program on St. Luke’s Day, Oct. 19, at Griffin Hospital. The event is open to the public and will be from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Participants will be offered refreshments and learn about all the churches that participate in the program. The event will also feature a healing service at 1 p.m.

For more information, visit the Valley Parish Nurse Program page at or call Daun Barrett at 203-732-7584.

“Over the years, we have touched tens of thousands of lives and with the generous support of foundations such as Katharine Matthies and Valley Community Foundation, we were able to offer most of our programs at no or very low cost,” Gorel said.

“Our ministry is alive at St. Joseph’s in Shelton and we would love to meet you," she said.