Chaplaincy is a powerful ministry
Dave Eck • Director of Communications
When I was 12, my right leg got caught under a moving car and broke in two places. Though the surgeon tried to reset the bones in my lower leg, the result was surgery and a week’s stay in the hospital.
The day after surgery I was alone in my room, watching one of my favorite television shows, leg in a full-length cast and still hurting, when our parish priest came in. He was a friendly Irishman with a ruddy face and wry sense of humor, whom everyone liked.
Yes, I was momentarily annoyed that the TV had to be turned off, but this was my chance to really talk with someone about the accident, my injury and my anxiety about a full recovery. My concerns, mixed with a few tears, poured out and Father reassured me that things would be fine. We prayed together, asking God for strength and healing.
Fast-forward 37 years. I am in a room in that same hospital with my mom who had suffered a massive stroke. The anxiety came back and there were more questions. Why? What comes next? My mind was numb. At that moment a chaplain came in offering holy Communion. It was an opportune time to again share my concerns with someone. She listened, encouraged me to accept God’s will, and prayed with me.
Those two instances, nearly 40 years apart, gave me an inner peace that I have never experienced anywhere else.
That’s why it was so special to watch Sister Terry Maher make her rounds as assistant manager of spiritual care at St. Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino, California. She held the hands of patients in the emergency room and asked how they were feeling. She listened to their concerns and fears. She prayed with them. I recalled my own experiences with hospital chaplains.
Sister Terry is the face of Christ to those in vulnerable and anxious moments. She brings God to where God is most needed. She’s a listening presence, knowing what to say and when to say it.
It’s a powerful ministry, and I’m grateful for it.
In this issue of Sharing & Caring, we also learn about Sister Karen Elliot’s address to the National Conference of Vicars for Religious during their annual gathering in Chicago.
An engaging speaker and popular professor at Mercy College of Northwest Ohio, Sister Karen utilized her own experiences as a woman religious in sharing with the vicars a message on the Year of Consecrated Life.