One of the supreme joys of religious life is the opportunity to engage in ministries that you might never have expected. If someone told me five years ago that I’d be working in a hospital, I would have told them that they were crazy. I was a teacher. Hospitals made me uncomfortable. But God has a sense of humor and the phrase from Jeremiah, Chapter 20 “You duped me, oh Lord” comes to mind when I think about how I became an Emergency Room Chaplain. I guess my chaplaincy calling started when the call came to accompany sisters from our skilled care center, Mohun Health Care Center, when they had to go to the hospital. I signed up, and during these experiences, I met some amazing sisters and heard their problems, their stories, their fears.
At around the same time, my Spiritual Director suggested that I take a unit of CPE. CPE is Clinical Pastoral Education and it’s a training program for chaplains, but it’s also a tool for ministers of all types and religions to come to grips with their feelings and the feelings of others. It’s a program about listening – to one’s own heart and to the fears of others. I was very hesitant, but after many months of reflection, I attended the program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. And yes, it did change my life!
Three years ago, I had an opportunity to move to New Haven, Connecticut and to enter the CPE program at Yale New Haven Hospital, where I took three more units of study. Each unit was about 100 hours of classroom work and 300 hours of clinical work in the hospital under the supervision of a certified chaplain. It was challenging, but at the same time a blessing, as I learned more about my own biases, fears, and strengths – some I didn’t even know I had. I was hired by the hospital during my fourth unit to be a casual chaplain and work weekends and overnights. I had the added advantage of being able to take Holy Communion to the many Catholics in the hospital. Mostly, I listened and affirmed the vulnerable patients and comforted families when their loved ones died.
About a year ago, I was hired as an Emergency Department (ED) Chaplain. There’s a sense of urgency and intimacy in the ED that comes from the trauma that impacts patients, their families, and also the staff. The trauma of COVID still lingers and there is a brittleness in us all as we seek to care for all those affected by the effects of this pandemic.
Indeed, my ministry as a chaplain has been a blessing and one that would never, ever have happened had I not entered religious life.
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14 responses to “Unexpected Joys of Religious Life”
What a job! Am so glad you find it such a part of Religious life. I’m sure the patients you walk with find it full of God.
A beautiful and sensitive reflection on call. I’m reminded of the quote “would that we would listen”. You listened and eventually found a meaningful ministry using skills you developed and those you newly found.
Blessings on your continued good works.
Excellent Barb – Thanks for sharing!
How amazing Sister Barbara! I am sure you are such a comforting presence when people need it the most. Thank you!
Indeed, it is a blessing. Glad you responded to the call. Caring for the sick and loved one’s places one in a very vulnerable position. Much luck, and blessings.
Thank you for following this call. It is critical in how patients and families cope with tragedy and grief, to have compassionate deep listeners to walk with them on their journeys. Coming from the medical side, I am wondering about this as well. God Bless you in your ministry.
A wonderful reflection on your ministry, Sr. Barbara!
Many blessings as you continue to serve.
Thank you for your personal and very helpful sharing after having the opportunity to learn how to do the work of a chaplain. Well done.
God takes us down paths that are not necessarily direct! How cool that God let this grow in you until you were ready, and how good that you listened to the call.
Thank you, Barb, for your thoughtful reflection.
Many blessings for your important ministry.
Wonderful reflection on your ministry, Barb. Many blessings!
Thank you for sharing this, Barbara. As I read it I rejoiced with you. It also prompted me to recall with much gratitude countless blessings that have come to me and through me when called to ministries and places I had never expected. I too thank God for the gift that religious life has been to me for over 60 years!
So beautifully said in describing your wonderful, yet
Blessings to you!
Jan Wilson, OPA
It is Wonderful–Thanks. I am sending it so friends.