When COMISS was created, it was decided that even though the various cognate groups gave distinguished service awards each year, there would be one international award representing the entire pastoral care movement. It was to be given to any person whose contributions had significantly advanced the international pastoral care movement.
The COMISS Medal is the highest award given by the Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings. The first recipient, in 1988, was Henri Nouwen, who received the award at Dialogue 88 in Minneapolis. The purpose of the medal is to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the international spiritual and pastoral care and counseling movement – to ministry in specialized settings.