an ending

I turned in my id badge this afternoon after my last day of ministry at the hospital. Since last December, I've been spending Monday afternoons working as a volunteer in the pastoral care department. As a volunteer, I brought communion to Catholic patients and visited with patients of all faiths.

The idea for our ministry experience this year was to do something that was a "stretch" for us - i.e. not something we've done before. (Incidentally, this seems to be a theme, as next year I'm to be "stretched" as well. One of our Sisters joked that you'd think we were pantyhose rather than novices!)

In any case, working in a hospital setting was certainly a stretch for me. It's not something I've ever done before, and to be honest I don't think it's something I'm necessarily called to do. That said, it was a wonderful experience. Some highlights:
  • I had a great mentor at the hospital. She knew that I was a bit out of my comfort zone, and went out of her way to help me find my way and learn the ropes. So did the other pastoral care staff for that matter. They all made me feel right at home.
  • I have spent a lot of time in hospitals before - as the family member of a chronically ill patient. My mom passed away about 4 years ago after a long struggle with cancer, and I spent oodles of time in the hospital and nursing home with her. I wasn't surprised that a lot of those emotional memories came up when I was visiting with patients, in particular on the cancer floor. I think I now have a better understanding of Henri Nouwen's concept of the "wounded healer." My mentor was a great help as I tried to tap into some of my own history to be a better listener for the patients and their families.
  • Bringing Communion to patients was a heart expanding experience. There is something that happens in the hospital room when you stop to recognize and share the divine presence. I am the better for it, and I know that most of the Catholic patients really appreciate daily communion while they are in the hospital.
  • Our Sisters have a long tradition of providing health care. Our Western Province sponsors a hospital system with 6 community hospitals. The hospital where I was ministering this year in NJ was started by our Sisters in 1925. I truly appreciated the opportunity for a grounding in this important aspect of our ministry.
  • My time at the hospital gave me an opportunity to get more comfortable with the role of "Sister Susan." It doesn't feel quite so strange anymore!
My next ministry experience will be for a shorter time period but more in depth. While I am in London, I will be volunteering at a day center for the homeless. That also promises to be a "stretching" experience!

1 comment:

DJC said...

I had a dear friend who had the same experience you did with a mother suffering and dying from cancer. Spending too much time in hospitals and nursing homes...When my mother was dying from cancer in a nursing home, my friend came to visit. I knew how hard it was for her to visit my mother in a nursing home. I really appreciated and loved her for doing that. God watch over you in all your "out of comfort zone" experiences. It's all the "wounded healers" who do God's work...Peace