I would like to share with you my own personal-faith journey in ministering to the sick at Cape Regional Hospital, Cape May Court House. This pastoral care to the sick gives me the opportunity to represent in persona Christi the healing power of God.
Catholic hospital chaplaincy provides spiritual care to Catholic patients who are weakened by illness and confined in hospitals. The hospital is often a sad environment. You see the reality of people from all walks of life who are suffering and dying. The challenge that I face when I visit the sick is this: How am I going to let them feel that God is love?
The objective of my visit is to let the sick feel the power of faith, hope and love manifesting through the sacraments that I administer and the words that I share. It can be a depressing environment, but the power of God’s love is visibly manifesting through the sensitivity and care of the doctors, nurses, aides, caring loved ones, chaplains and praying community.
The foundation of my ministry to the sick is Jesus Christ, our Divine Healer. The Spirit has anointed Jesus to heal, to lift up, to encourage, to teach, to give sight and freedom.
The church continues Christ’s ministry of healing in a variety of approaches. The Diocese of Camden is doing an excellent job of taking care of the spiritual needs of the sick. With humility, being a chaplain, I am carrying forward Christ’s healing ministry to the sick by being present and administering the sacraments of holy Communion, reconciliation and anointing of the sick.
My pastoral work in the parish is intertwined with my hospital ministry. When I visit the sick, I am also fulfilling the vision and mission of the parish. In other words, the hospital ministry is also part of the parish’s on-going mission of building up the Christian community.
My spiritual journey in the parish is the very source of energy that truly inspires me to minister to the sick.
Pope Francis invites us “to open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help” (Misericordiae Vultus, 15).
The sick Catholic faithful who are confined to hospitals are included in this challenge. The sick are not only struggling physically, but they are also suffering from emotional, psychological and spiritual pains. It is an awesome assurance that in their moments of vulnerability, there is a Catholic presence that generously shows compassion to them.
Jesus inspires us to reach out with concern to bring life and hope to others who are sick.
He urges us to touch, to heal, and to console. Christ says, “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the fullest” (Jn 10:10). This is what he did to sinners, the sick, the blind, the paralyzed and the dead. Life burst forth for those people like a fountain of well-being because he came to supply it abundantly. That is what human compassion is all about.
As a priest chaplain, I may not be able to work miracles, but I can share in the healing work of Christ. I can give them holy Communion for their spiritual nourishment. I administer the sacrament of the sick to heal their souls. I can hear confession for their conversion and reconciliation. I can help the sick cope with their difficulties by a friendly and cheerful visit with words or gestures of encouragement.
When we touch a sick person, that sick person will not be physically healed. But I am sure that as we touch the sick person, the broken heart of that person will be healed. The wonder of the human touch has mended so many broken hearts. The human hands have power to bring healing, to bring joy, and to bring consolation.
The sick need the love of God made real for them through the experience of care and concern shown by the people around them. Just by being there, even though we are powerless, we can make faith in God real for them. To show that God is there to protect them from devastating fears, doubts, worries and anxieties that paralyze their spirits. He is there to give them the courage and grace to journey with him so that whatever illness may do to their bodies, it will bring clarity, peace and dignity to their souls.
Thus, this Catholic chaplaincy ministry at Cape Regional Hospital allows me to make these following profound realizations:
— It teaches me that the world is full of suffering people.
— It gives me a lesson that a life entrusted into the care of Jesus Christ finds hope and healing.
— It challenges me that hope can be reinforced through concrete expressions of love.
— It makes me aware that our pain can motivate us to pray with others.
— It leads me to believe that as we pray and support the sick, we receive abundant blessings from God
Every Christian is called to this ministry of healing in one way or another. And we have this truth: If the Lord gives us a mission, he will also give us the resources and sufficient grace we need to carry it out. May we never lose this missionary spirit of helping the sick, for there’s still so much to be done.
May we always pray:
Lord, give us a gift of healing and evangelization. Open our eyes, our hearts, our hands, our ears, our wills to the needs of the sick. Give us a zeal to reach out and touch the sick with your healing love. Bless all the sick in our diocese, their loved ones, families, healthcare professionals, and all the people who are lovingly taking good care of the sick. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Father Cosme de la Pena serves as parochial vicar at Our Lady of the Angels Church and chaplain at Cape Regional Hospital, Cape May Court House.
For more information or questions about the services provided by VITALity Catholic Healthcare Services of the Diocese of Camden, contact our Call Center at 1-888-26VITALity (1-888-268-4825).
Testimonial from a patient’s family member
“This is a story of healing of my father at Kennedy University Hospital, Stratford. On March 2nd, my 87 year old father fractured his hip requiring surgery. Fr. Wilson Paulose, the hospital chaplain, anointed him since I feared for his soul, should he die in surgery. Fr. Wilson reminded me that it is a sacrament of healing.
After the surgery, my dad’s other medical conditions worsened and he needed ICU care because he had dangerously low BP requiring vasopressors and he also needed hemodialysis. My father wanted to go home to die. He was so depressed.
However, when he was transferred out of ICU, a Eucharistic Minister visited with him. She gave him a prayer for spiritual communion and a prayer of suffering. It was beautiful. He will be transferred to rehabilitation for therapy and hemodialysis today. I came to see a change in my dad not only physically but spiritually and mentally. Thank you Jesus.”
Testimonial from a hospital patient
“I have been in the hospital a little over a year now. At first you’re doing a lot of things keeping you busy. But after a while you start getting bored and lonely. My family can’t get over to visit due to medical problems. Thank goodness I have a dear friend that visits. We have been friends since we were 11 years old and now we are 70.
One day a priest (chaplain) came in…and offered me communion, of course I said yes. After communion he pulled over a chair and spoke with me… He also told me about the Eucharistic Ministers…who offer communion to the patients and bring comfort which I thought was great.
The next day a very nice lady came in and introduced herself as one of the associate chaplains from the diocese giving communion and asked me if I would like to receive that day, I said yes I would. We talked for a while. I found her very easy to talk to. She’s been coming every other day now and I can’t wait until she comes back. She has become a very nice friend and comforts me since my family can’t get here too often because of medical problems.
Having both Father Tomy and Anne giving communion and visiting has become a heartwarming visit to wait for. Father Tomy and Anne have become good friends. Their prayers for me, my husband, and my cousin have meant a lot to me. Anne and I have become good friends and she tells me how to pray for my needs and receiving communion every day has given my heart something to smile about.
I will remember them forever and how they gave me courage to pray every day and wait for God to help me and my family. The diocese started this program and I think it’s great! Love you all!”
Pastor Greg Hill, Supervisor for the Spiritual Care Department, Inspira Health Network
“We are very grateful for the partnership that we have with Monsignor Bottino and Deacon Arnaldo A. Santos. They are tremendous assets to our spiritual care department and attentive shepherds to our Catholic patients. They are responsive in crises and proactive in mobilizing Eucharistic Ministers to serve in Vineland and in Elmer. Thank you for the blessing of working with these two men. We are grateful for the kingdom partnership that we have with the Camden Diocese.”
Testimonial from a patient’s family
“We just want to express our gratitude for your kindness… Coming to see my loved one in her time of difficulty with communion has been uplifting and very special for her and me. It is needed by so many facing similar circumstances. We simply cannot thank you enough and we are grateful to the Diocese of Camden.”
Testimonial from the mother of a patient
“Dear Associate Chaplain, thank you for coming and seeing my daughter…and me at the hospital…she has ways to go but with all the prayers and the anointing, she is doing much better. Thank you for talking with me and all your support.”