With a background of over thirty years working in health and more than thirteen in paid pastoral care, Angela visits patients for a myriad of reasons. In her role as a hospital chaplain, she explained that care is provided across the lifespan – when celebrating life in times of joy like baptisms, or journeying with patients as they enter that place of everlasting life, and quoting Pope Francis. He said, ‘may everyone receive the anointing of listening, closeness, tenderness and care’ (Angelus 11/07/21). One of the joys of Angela’s role is to “encourage patients to have a deeper relationship with God, Jesus and Wairua Tapu/Holy Spirit, which allows conversations to explore what’s meaningful in the spiritual journey, at whatever stage of life.”
Angela outlines the benefit of working collaboratively with the ecumenical team (Rev Helen Gray, Maori chaplain), Volunteer Chaplains Assistants, parish priests, and parish workers. She states that a “patient-centered, professional, and compassionate service is offered; one that embodies the charism of our Christian character.”
Chaplains are active in every area of a hospital. Apart from visiting patients, part of the ecumenical team’s work includes the blessings of rooms/wards, theatres and equipment. Special annual events include involvement in the National Baby Loss Service held locally in the Nurses’ Memorial Chapel at Christchurch Hospital and the National Organ Donation Service at the Transitional Cathedral.A high turnover of patients and resourcing demands puts added pressure on hospital staff. Therefore, supporting staff is a vital part of the role, offering on-site support such as staff masses, online resources, and spirituality tools.
NETWORK OF CARE
Upon discharge from the hospital, a care network exists at the community level. If required, one’s parish priest or parish worker picks up the mantle of care. Catholic Social Services or St Vincent de Paul also offer support within the community.
This integrated service is a team effort that puts the patient and their family at the center of a network of parish support, ensuring a patients’ recovery or, in the case of death, help for a loved one’s family and, if required, guidance, for funerals.
The Catholic Diocese of Christchurch’s Chaplaincy team covers Christchurch’s hospitals, while parish priests and parish workers offer support on the West Coast and Mid and South Canterbury. Simply fill in ‘Roman Catholic’ on the hospital admission form, or ask staff to refer you to the chaplain or priest on-call.
Understanding how to access the service is important to Angela, who encourages patient referral. “There are times when I may be contacted to provide pastoral care for loved ones whose family cannot make it to hospital. For example, for an elderly parent whose child lives overseas. Getting calls from family out of town is wonderful, as it allows us to work with loved ones on their behalf. And you don’t have to be active in your faith to benefit from the service. In fact, many lapsed Catholics ask for their loved ones to be given the sacraments of communion or anointing.”