From October 22 to 28 we recognize Pastoral Care Week, also known as Spiritual Care Week. As more people around the world come to recognize the importance of whole person care, we take note during this special week, now in its 32nd year, to celebrate those who provide this care through professional chaplaincy and pastoral counseling. These trained professionals minister to the needs of persons of all faiths or none. They provide this care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, hospices, nursing homes and military settings throughout the world. By celebrating the week we have the opportunity to recognize the important and often unrecognized work and healing gifts of pastoral care givers, be they clergy, chaplains, or volunteers. By Eric J. Hall (Huffington Post)
Back in June of this year daughter Kathryn, ever watchful over the lives of her aging parents, sent me an email pertaining to an upcoming educational program offered at the hospital where she is employed. The course offered the opportunity for an individual to be trained in Pastoral Counseling and ultimately be a Chaplain upon successful completion. I’m guessing she thought I had too much idle time on my hands. I accepted the opportunity, filled out a lenghthy application and passed the background investigation and was accepted.
I finished the course successfully along with five other classmates and have begun walking the halls of the hospital and doing patient visitations. I am part of the Volunteer Services of the institution and am proud to be worthy of this responsibility.
During my formative years I was raised a Methodist, practiced as a Lutheran and attended a Baptist church while in the Marine Corps in Washington, DC. Fifty three years ago I married a young Catholic girl and have long been a practicing member of that faith. I’ve worshiped with Mormons, Jews and those of the Episcopal faith and attended a few Charismatic services. The rooms I enter will have a listener from many perspectives and three-quarters of a century of life experiences. Now, if these legs just hold up, I may do some good. Not quite sure what they might say when they realize a Rooster’s walking the halls.
No matter the faith, we all ask for a blessing from a higher authority when the chips are not quite falling our way. This is especially true when sickness or injury brings us inside those antiseptic walls of a hospital. An ending quote from a Chaplain that was recently carried in the Huffington Post went like this.
““We as chaplains in health care are often invited by patients and family members to stand with them in sacred spaces at sacred times in their lives. We are there with them to witness the beginnings of the lives and the ending of lives. We stand with them and support them during some of the greatest joys and some of the greatest tragedies that life brings to any person.”
Pastoral Care Overview
The Catholic Health Association of the United States
Through the Pastoral Care Advisory Committee, CHA looks at the changing landscape, challenges and opportunities for delivering spiritual care in new and creative ways. While pastoral care has traditionally been provided in Catholic hospitals and long-term care facilities, the shift in health care delivery to non-acute care and outpatient settings has created new opportunities for patients and residents to receive holistic care in these new settings. Many of our members are using chaplains in physician offices and ambulatory settings where patients with chronic diseases are being treated. Catholic health care is committed to providing holistic care in whatever setting care is being delivered. The need for qualified chaplains is growing.
Recognizing there is a shortage of trained, qualified chaplains in health care, CHA is committed to working collaboratively with board certifying groups to ensure there will be enough qualified chaplains to fill the needs going into the future. Many members are finding ways to use board certified chaplains with the most critically ill patients and supplement their staff though trained volunteers and local clergy. For more information about pastoral care activities, please contact Brian Smith, MS, MA, M.Div., CHA senior director of mission innovation and integration.
What a marvelous work you are doing! May God bless you richly for your service.