Members of the St. Joseph’s Heath System Spiritual Care Centre gather with Bishop Douglas Crosby. Photo courtesy Diocese of Hamilton

Investing in hospital ministry a wise – and healthy – choice

  • November 8, 2019

Hospital ministry is an extension of Jesus’ compassionate presence in our lives today.

It is there to provide comfort, peace and healing through spiritual accompaniment and support as we face health challenges, some that may cause us to question our faith, perhaps even the very meaning and purpose of our lives.

An investment in hospital ministry is a key priority of the ongoing $35-million One Heart, One Soul Campaign for the Diocese of Hamilton. The campaign goal for hospital ministry — $1.5 million — will serve to enhance the good work already being carried out by the Church as it reaches out to those who are may be unable to participate in the life of their parish communities because of illness and hospitalization or other circumstances.

Campaign funds will provide for:

  • Pastoral formation and training for those who minister to the sick, whether it be priests, deacons, hospital chaplains or lay ministers.
  • Resources for, and emphasis of, the spiritual components of palliative care, the goal of which is to relieve the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious and often life-threatening illness or disease.

Gary Payne, director of spiritual care for the St. Joseph’s Health System, said Bishop Douglas Crosby is being forward thinking by including hospital ministry among the various ministries that will benefit from the One Heart, One Soul Campaign.

Crosby has a vision for the future and, like a good shepherd, wants to provide for the needs of those who may be most vulnerable and in need of this ministry. Spiritual care, as offered in Catholic hospitals, is of great importance to him, Payne said.

Payne supports the inclusion of hospital ministry in the campaign, both for further strengthening the professional chaplaincy resources and providing training and formation for those involved in the ministry at the parish level.

The standards for professional health care chaplains and spiritual care providers are increasing all the time, Payne said. Training and certification for positions of this kind in our health care institutions include a master’s degree in divinity, theological studies or the equivalent, full certification in Supervised Pastoral Education (SPE) and, for an increasing number of organizations, the requirement that their certified chaplains pursue registration with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO).

Payne doesn’t begrudge the need for the increasing standards but, rather, offers that the ministry is just that important.

Being hospitalized, having a medical procedure, being placed in a hospice care setting (away or at home) can impact us emotionally and spiritually, and sometimes result in a feeling of separation from others. We may even experience a feeling of separation from our self and, possibly, even God.

Physical and medical interventions may take precedence and the hospitalized person may feel divided, body, mind and spirit.

Payne said Catholic patients are particularly blessed to have opportunities to participate in the Sacraments of Anointing of the Sick, Reconciliation and Communion, along with the tradition of prayers to assist individuals through the healing process.

Requesting and receiving the Sacrament of the Sick does not need to be delayed until a crisis occurs, Payne said, and is most effective as part of the process of spiritual healing as soon as someone is admitted to the hospital or as they are being transitioned to receiving palliative care.

Clergy, lay ministers, chaplains and the Family Ministry Office of the Diocese of Hamilton will be working on a plan to best utilize the investment from the One Heart, One Soul Campaign to enhance and expand hospital ministry. Results will be shared upon its completion and approval.

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