For years, I didn’t understand chaplaincy. I saw actors represent chaplains in the movies. I met some chaplains through activities at my church. I even had a family member become a chaplain. Still, the actual act of chaplaincy remained opaque.
What is chaplaincy and what do chaplains do? In fall of 2018, I became a chaplain with Catholic Hospice. I was assigned to provide spiritual care for patients and families who were receiving palliative and hospice care, along with supporting my teammates. Within the first few days in the hospital, I was called in to support a family whose loved one was having life support withdrawn. I was nervous and prayed fervently for help before entering the room. What does a chaplain say or do in a time like this? Are there magic words that I was supposed to have learned for situations like these? It turned out that these moments taught me that being faithful, available, and teachable would be some of the best tools I would use to support my patients, families, and staff. These moments helped me see the role of a chaplain. I didn’t have any magic words that day, but I was faithful to show up when that family needed someone. I didn’t know what to do when I walked into that room, but I was available for them for what they may need. As I paid attention to what the family said and did, they would be the ones to teach me what I should say or do to support them.
Each situation is a unique one, but remaining faithful, available, and teachable have helped me to provide the support that people need, and Catholic Hospice has given me the opportunity and support I need in order to do it.