Power of Prayer: Center for Spiritual and Pastoral Care
Future hospital chaplains are learning to extend healing of the mind, body, and spirit.
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Ministers from around the country are enrolling in a unique program based at an East Texas hospital.
The Center for Pastoral and Spiritual Care at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler trains chaplains how to extend spiritual healing to patients and their families.
Staff chaplains, students in the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program, and a team of volunteers are on-duty around the clock. They’re present for every stage of humanity -- from birth to the end of life.
“We are called by Christ’s name and we are here to serve,” said Rev. Daniel Oghenerukevwe, a priest chaplain.
Father Daniel came to the United State from Nigeria as a missionary priest. Serving in the Diocese of Tyler since 2017, his ministry led him to receive formation in CPE in July 2019.
“For me, the role of the diagnostic Good Shepherd is to care for the spirit, the soul, and the body, which is what makes you the ‘who you are’ -- the wholeness of who you are.”
In late August, the Center for Pastoral and Spiritual Care opened just steps from the hospital’s main entrance. Its placement here is intentional, a statement about the role faith plays in healing care.
“It tells everyone who comes in here that Pastoral Care is not just something that’s hidden in a corner,” said Rev. Stephen Murray, the Director of Pastoral Care at Mother Frances Hospital.
The Center also provides office space, overnight rest accommodations for on-call staff, and training classrooms for the chaplains participating in the CPE program.
“It’s in those interactions that it raises questions for them because they recognize ‘I need to get better at this,’ said Rev. Murray. “There’s areas that, likewise, as supervisors and educators, we can help them to see areas where they can improve and grow.”
Feedback, seminars, training on theory, peer exercises, and hands-on ministry prepare them for any situation they might encounter while performing their ministry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented its own set of challenges and opportunities for the Spiritual Care team.
After working at a hospital in Ft. Worth, G. Marie Brown arrived in Tyler at the height of the pandemic. She recalls handling between seven and 11 deaths in a 12-hour shift.
“Yes, that was very challenging. But it also is something I would not trade for anything because it really it caused me to reflect and go much deeper.”
This clinical experience helped Brown learn to identify the unique needs of people of all different faith backgrounds and traditions.
“To really assess what’s going on. And we sometimes ask questions about what are you feeling and what does this mean to you and other questions that help them understand their feelings and understand what’s going on inside their heart.”
The Spiritual Care department ministers to the needs of Catholics, Protestants, as well as those of Jewish, Muslim, and other faith traditions.
Each chaplain resident and associate receives assignments to care units like the ER, ICU, Dialysis, or Pulmonary Care.
Re. Allan Escobar calls this his “congregation,” where doctors, nurses, and staff join in a holistic approach.
“You don’t see just the chaplain leading the prayer, but you see our nurses and the family all agreeing in one thing -- for the well-being of that patient.”
Escobar previously served as a youth minister and pursued chaplaincy after his wife completed the CPE program. He sees one of his duties as changing the chaplains’ stereotype of a bearer of bad news.
“All I am is just an instrument where he can use to deliver perhaps a word. Or I can through the prayer, bringing them to God’s presence.”
Sometimes called ‘doctors of the soul,’ the chaplains connect patients and their families to find meaning and hope in all stages of life’s journey.
“Prayer is really the beginning and the end of what we do,” said Father Daniel. “We are here. We stabilize you, we pray with you for life and eternity -- either way. Christ’s presence brings restoration.”
Two chapels on the hospital campus also provide space for families and patients to prayer, reflect, or attend weekly Catholic Mass or ecumenical prayer services.
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