This week is Spiritual Care Week (October 25-31), an opportunity to recognise the important role of spiritual caregivers in the community and the ministry they provide.
Carinity has 54 volunteer and paid chaplains who provide compassionate spiritual care, support, encouragement and a listening ear to people in Carinity aged care communities, hospitals, schools and correctional centres around Queensland.
Our chaplains provide effective and coordinated pastoral care to people of all faiths and no faith.
The theme of Spiritual Care Week 2020, Collaborative Healthcare: Chaplains Complete the Picture, encourages the healthcare sector to view the work of chaplains as part of inclusive healthcare practices and as collaborators to provide holistic interdisciplinary care.
Carinity’s Chaplaincy Coordinator (Hospitals and Aged Care), Greg Murphy, shares an insight into an example of the pastoral support provided to patients in a Brisbane hospital:
Joan*, a lady in her 70s, smiled as I introduced myself as the Baptist chaplain at the hospital. We talked a little about the church she had been attending regularly before recent restrictions stopped services.
“They’ve found some tumours up here,” she said, pointing to her head. “I should find out today if there is anything they can do. I don’t think they are operable. But they might be able to treat them in some way.”
We chatted for a while and Joan revealed that she was not afraid of death but was not sure about the process. I spoke of the feeling a trapeze artist might have as they let go of one bar to swing to the next.
We talked about letting go of relationships and memories and about the fear of the unknown. “Even if you believe in heaven, you don’t know what dying is going to be like,” Joan supposed.
Joan paused. “I feel bad. I haven’t prayed or anything.”
We spent a few minutes exploring what this “paralysis of faith” might be about: the tiredness associated with her physical symptoms; a lack of clarity over her treatment options; the numbness often associated with grieving.
“That makes a lot of sense,” she said. “Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom.”
Joan’s story is typical of many conversations in hospital chaplaincy. It’s not always about dying. But any illness or surgery serious enough to result in hospitalisation can lead to troubling new thoughts or feelings.
Chaplains are there to provide a listening ear, to offer context, to help people to explore their inner selves and find peace with whatever they are going through.