Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 15, 2010
Visitors bring caring presence to hospitals
Archdiocesan program has trained more than 500 visitors
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Eva Mullen has never been active in pastoral care, but has considered becoming more involved in the ministry. To do so, she has been taking pastoral care visitor training.
"This brings forth that you get divine help from God as to what to say to help people. You don't talk about your own needs. You talk about their needs. You let them do the talking, not you. You are there to help them, not yourself," she said.
While Mullen believes that some medical professionals might view it differently, her view is that pastoral care is something for the soul.
"I was in the hospital with a stroke. I was helping the patient beside me who was dying. She had no one to talk to, so there was me helping her," said Mullen.
"She died the day before I left. There's nobody there to understand those needs."
Since the program's inception six years ago, the Edmonton Archdiocese and the Alberta Pastoral Care Association have trained more than 500 people.
This year's program has been running since Jan. 12. Nearly 30 participants, with representation from at least eight different parishes, were at Assumption Church on Feb. 6.
The group included nine people from the Portuguese parish of Our Lady of Fatima, two Lutherans, and women from the archdiocese's outlying communities of Hinton and Bentley. St. Michael-Resurrection Parish, as well as parishes in St. Albert, Camrose and Wetaskiwin have requested pastoral care visitor training for their parishioners.
A LONELY PLACE
Overseeing the program is John MacDonald, associate director of pastoral care and life initiatives for the archdiocese.
"Many people have experiences with someone in their family or someone personally being in the hospital for an extended period of time. Many people have been there themselves and they know it can be a very lonely place," said MacDonald.
"There is nothing more uplifting to somebody's spirits than getting a visit from a friend or sometimes even somebody you don't know. It's especially gratifying when somebody from their parish visits them and keeps the faith family connected."
Years ago, bringing the Eucharist to the bedridden, praying with them, and being a friend on their journey to recovery were responsibilities of priests and nuns. Today, those resources are not always available. Instead, the role goes to trained volunteers.
"That's what we're all about here: Giving people some basic skills on how to do this compassionately and with knowledge, and point out to them some areas that might cause a little bit of problem," MacDonald told the WCR.
The class discussed some touchy topics, including euthanasia, assisted suicide, dying with dignity, palliative care and the Church's views on keeping a person on life support for a prolonged period. MacDonald called these topics difficult but necessary.
"We hope that over time, palliative care becomes a major part of our exit strategy instead of assisted suicide," he said.
CHRIST THE HEALER
The entire training program is built upon the rich tradition of Christ the Healer, learning from the Bible how Jesus reached out with compassion to help others.
"This is kind of a way to help people who are lonely or in a time of their lives when they are sick or very old, and need somebody around to help them. Some are in the hospitals, some are in their homes, and they don't have people around," said Martha Sellu.
Sellu took part in the program to learn how to respond with care to the homebound and the bereaved.
Her training covered a basic understanding and theology of pastoral care, visitation techniques, listening skills, ethics, grief and loss, self-care and the sacraments.
APPRECIATE GOD'S GIFTS
In some instances, pastoral care has been perceived as unnecessary. With the provincial government economizing and targeting pastoral care for cutbacks, Sellu remains hopeful that it will keep pastoral care an important priority.
From taking the classes at Assumption Church, Sellu learned "how to be more caring and appreciate what God has given to people.
"The life that God has given to us on earth makes me always think and reflect on my own people - my mother, my grandmother, and my dad who was very sick before he passed away. I am always thinking about him in that way."
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