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.
If you want to explore religious life as a Dominican Sister of Peace, please contact us. We are here to help you with your discernment.
Also, you might want to join us for our March 2023 Come and See Retreat.