Sickbed reconciliations in hospital chaplaincy

By Jordan Grantham, 10 January 2018
St Camillus de Lellis, founder of the Camillian Order, Ministers to the Infirm. Image: Wikimedia Commons

“You know not the day or the hour” (Mt 23:13) when the Lord permits personal suffering. Westmead Hospital precinct is one of the largest hospital zones in the Southern Hemisphere and the Camillian Order is present day and night helping people suffering health challenges.

“As hospital chaplains and as priests, there are dramatic moments, as we say, when we encounter a dying patient, together with the family,” Fr Marcelo Pamintuan MI said.

The Camillian community in Wentworthville consists of Fr Dado Haber MI, Fr Giulio Ghezzi MI, Fr Regie Jamorabon MI and Fr Marcelo. The whole Camillian community in Wentworthville agrees there are many moments like that, challenging chaplains with complex emotions.

There are also moments of dramatic joy and grace. There are patients, who after being seen and visited realise how important God is to their lives, another community member said.

“There are a number of conversion stories. There are a good number of people who, because of their sickness, are lead back to God,” Fr Dado said. They realise God is more important than anyone else, he said.

“There are also many reconciliations among family members. People repair their relationship with God, their relationship with their families,” Fr Regie said.

RELATED: Priests and Brothers for the Sick

The love of a family becomes more evidence in this time of sickness, pain and suffering.

The patient population of Westmead Hospital Precinct is approximately 25% Catholic.

The Chaplains are also impressed by the religious zeal of some of the patients.

Fr. Dado Haber MI, Fr. Marcelo “Bong” Pamintuan MI, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Fr. Domingo ‘Meng’ Barawid MI, Fr. Giulio Ghezzi MI, Fr. Regie Jamorabon MI. Image: Supplied.

“There are a good number of people who still want to receive Holy Communion daily. Not just weekly – daily. That’s good,” Fr Marcelo said.

“We still have Catholics who are faithful, who are really wanting to receive the sacrament.”

The hospital chaplaincy department at Westmead Public Hospital has offices for the Catholic, Anglican, Hindu, Muslim and other religions’ chaplaincies.

Beyond religious and ethnic diversity, hospital chaplains encounter people from all walks of life. Hospital chaplains meet more people than just their parishioners.

It’s a time to get to know patients and also a time to ask ‘How is your relationship with God?’

“I’ve never heard anyone say they never believe anymore. I’ve never seen a person who will just reject you,” Fr Marcelo said.

Spiritual growth is a two way street. Finding God in the sick is the charism of the Camillians, or Clerics Regular, Ministers to the Infirm.

RELATED: Priests and Brothers for the Sick

It’s a basic spirituality that Camillians, try to imbibe. St Camillus taught that his spiritual sons must find Jesus in the sick and be Jesus to the sick as well.

This is a challenge for the Camillian community. It is not as simple for them as St Camillus, such as when he had a mystical experience seeing a patient’s wounds as the wounds of Christ.

The interview, on a Friday afternoon, is a lighter occasion.

“We have a large number of patients who are being discharged this afternoon,” Fr Marcelo said.

“They are happy, so I am happy as well.”

“It’s not that I’m happy to not see them again,” he joked.


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