Br Daniel Bowen, O. de M., a Mercedarian student, spent his summer assisting at Metro Hospital in Cleveland. Here is his experience of Hospital Chaplaincy:
We read in Sacred Scripture that if one member suffers in the Body of Christ, which is the Church, all the members suffer with that member (1 Cor 12:26). This is why all baptized Christians are called upon to share in the ministry of mutual charity by doing all one can to help the sick return to health, by showing love for the sick, and when possible, by celebrating the sacraments with them. This past summer I was given the extra special opportunity of assisting in this ministry by being assigned to an apostolate at Metrohealth Hospital (Main Campus) in Cleveland, Ohio assisting Father Justin A. Freeman, O. de M. with his duties as the Catholic Chaplain. This was my first experience of ministry in a hospital setting.
I discovered that there is a great need today in the hospitals! It is a place where, despite the best staff and facilities available (Metrohealth being one of the best), a person can still feel frightened being in an unfamiliar environment and with the condition of an unexpected injury, illness or disease. It is in such a place where someone can be challenged by his or her own mortality. This can cause someone to look back over their life and perhaps question their future. Oftentimes, it can be a moment that God permits to allow someone the opportunity to draw closer to Him. But, of course, since we are given freewill by God there is a choice to be made. Hence, it is here, in the hospital, where a Christian is in danger of losing his or her Christian faith.
As a Mercedarian religious, this spoke to my heart giving me the understanding of why Christ must be present in such a place. Christ must be able to be present to His people both in word and deed, both in the person of His ministers and most importantly in His sacraments. Earlier this summer, in May 2011, I was officially instituted into the Ministry of Acolyte with my seminary classmates. Among the many blessings that this ministry bestows on one, is the awesome ability to bring Holy Communion to people. This was the most important duty that I was able to perform at the Hospital: to bring our Eucharistic Lord, the Body Blood, Soul and Divinity to his people. I also made referrals for Father Freeman of those patients that were in need of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) and The Anointing of the Sick.
However, it was not all just what Father Freeman and I were able to give to the patients, staff, volunteers, friends and family members in way of the Sacraments, witness and encouragement. No, it was also what they all gave to me. In my encounters with everyone at Metrohealth I met Jesus Christ, Himself. Sacred Scripture records these words of our Blessed Lord: “I was sick and you visited me” (Mt. 25:36). Yes, Christ’s compassion toward the suffering and sick goes so deep that He identifies himself with them. And in every patient, and in every encounter, I was blessed to meet, know, and serve our Lord Jesus Christ. I was there to be with and listen to our Lord in His concerns and sufferings and to witness the faith of our Lord on the cross.
Perhaps this gets at the heart of why our Lord commanded his disciples to “Heal the Sick” (Mat 10:8). Not just for their sake, but also for our own. We are all called to be in right relationship with God, our Father, and to be in right relationship to our brothers and sisters. One might call this right relationship love, and oh, how desperately this is needed today. Yes, I learned much this summer. Yes, perhaps I helped a bit, but hopefully in the end, I pray, I loved all the more.
Brother Daniel Bowen, O. de M.