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AIDS ministers meet, compare notes, horrors.

CHICAGO - AIDS ministers must work to evoke spirituality as a resource for persons with HIV and AIDS, a hospital chaplain told participants at an AIDS ministry conference in Chicago. In 10 years of AIDS ministry, "people who have been living with AIDS have taught me a great deal about the difference between spirituality and religion," said Augustinian Fr. James Corrigan.

Corrigan, chaplain at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, told the sixth National Catholic HIV/AIDS Ministry Conference that for many, religion is an expression of spirituality, but for others there exists a profound conflict between the two.

Corrigan said July 25 he starts with the assumption that every person has an inner life. He suggested that problems of alienation, sexuality and spirituality can be addressed through reconciliation and integration. Reconciliation, he said, must go both ways. "When people can come together in our mutual brokenness and vulnerability, that's sacred ground ... and I believe something redemptive takes place."

Closely related to reconciliation is integration, and nothing integrates like ritual, he added. "I've been to so many funerals of people who have died of AIDS and they were more whole and integrated in their funeral than they had been in life. It was the power of ritual," he said.

Other speakers gave a perspective on how AIDS is affecting people in developing nations. "In the Dominican Republic, AIDS and HIV are a reality fostered by ignorance," said Bishop Priamo Tejeda Rosario of Bani, Dominican Republic, adding that he has heard people say they believe the church invented AIDS to curb their "fun."

"Ignorance makes people vulnerable," he said. "Because people are vulnerable, the parish is vulnerable, the church is vulnerable, and humanity is vulnerable."

The institutional church in Uganda has been slow to get involved, said Sr. Mary Ursula Sharpe, who is a Medical Missionary of Mary. "We have been devastated by AIDS," she said, citing statistics that show more than 1 million orphans as a result of AIDS in a country of 16 million.

Many attending the conference spoke of frustration in working within the institutional church. "We've been practicing |guerrilla Christianity' for years now," one man said.

Archbishop John R Quinn, episcopal moderator of the National Catholic AIDS Network, sponsor of the July 22-27 conference at Loyola University, urged participants in his homily to see hope in a future that God is preparing.

"Tears are not the last word. Sin and death are not lord," he said. "Jesus Christ is Lord and he is victor over tears, sin and death. There is a way out of the tomb."

Nearly everyone credited the conference with providing the support necessary to help them make it through another year. "I was very weary when I came to this conference," said Kathleen F. Reno, director of volunteer services for Chattanooga Council on AIDS Disease, Education and Support in Tennessee. "I have been fed this week, literally and figuratively, until I'm about to burst. I hope this |bread' will nourish and sustain me."
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Author:Kezmoh, Heidi Schlumpf
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Aug 13, 1993
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