Pastoral Care

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Pastoral Care is integral to Catholic Healthcare

“God is the light that illuminates the darkness, even if it does not dissolve it, and a spark of divine light is within each of us.” 

~ Pope Francis

The Rule of St. Benedict is the foundation of our ministries with the aged, the poor, the sick, and others in need. In this context, pastoral care provides emotional and spiritual support for those going through illness or loss.

Pastoral care is a natural outgrowth of St. Benedict’s humane approach to caring for the needs of the most vulnerable among us. It is a living example of Christ in our midst.

Benedictine chaplains minister to the sick and dying and to their families and caregivers. Body and soul, past and present, dreams and feelings, family and friends – all are part of each person’s unique story of God’s creative love. Pastoral care is a vital part of the healing process because the whole person is in dis-ease.

“You willed that your ministers would be clothed in weakness, so that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error. Let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.”

~ Pope Francis

In his book The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen addresses the paradox of being called to be a healing instrument for others while being in need of healing oneself. It is the paradox of every human being who takes Jesus’ command to love the other seriously. We cannot help others in their wounded-ness until we look deep within at our own scars and love who we are because of those wounds.

“Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within another person.”

~ Rachel Naomi Remen

Chaplains are trained in listening skills, crisis intervention, and assessment of spiritual needs. They are not proselytizers of any religion or belief system. Rather, as spiritual caregivers, they listen and help people to understand and put into words their own meaning, beliefs, and resources during times of crisis.

They listen to the heart of the person, full of fear, anxiety, anger, shame, or guilt in the face of crisis or death. They support patients, families, and staff through the anguishing struggle of answering the question: Is the treatment participating in the healing process or is it prolonging the dying process? Chaplains help patients and families to make informed ethical decisions and to move to a place of surrender and peace once the life-or-death decision is made.

“Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh

In the Oncology unit of St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, Sister Sue Fortier cares for the patients’ spiritual needs. “In our complex and technological health care systems, we must never lose sight of relationship, for it is there that life has purpose and meaning. It is there we are healed. It is a great privilege to witness the Divine breaking into the human story with possibilities of love, freedom, reconciliation, forgiveness, and deep gratitude and to extend God’s compassion and healing presence to another in the midst of suffering.”

“For it is in the depths of our own being and in the midst of daily life that we first, foremost, and most profoundly experience God-with-us. God dies and rises in the flesh and blood of our own life stories, for they are the Word made flesh yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”

~ Sister Lois Eckes

Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 58: Care of the Sick
Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 58: Care of the Sick
Sr. Sue Fortier
Sister Susan Fortier (on right) is a chaplain and ministers to the patients, families, and staff on the Oncology and Medical Units of St. Mary's Hospital.
Sister Lois Eckes provides support to the Damiano Center
“And let them first pray together, that so they may associate in peace.”
–St. Benedict of Nursia, The Rule of Saint Benedict