Touch of Kindness • An afternoon of prayer, fellowship, lunch and spiritual nourishment for pastoral workers who work as chaplains in hospitals and prisons in the Diocese, was offered by the diocesan Department of Pastoral Care Oct. 23 in the Chancery in Lawrenceville. Joe Moore photo.

Touch of Kindness • An afternoon of prayer, fellowship, lunch and spiritual nourishment for pastoral workers who work as chaplains in hospitals and prisons in the Diocese, was offered by the diocesan Department of Pastoral Care Oct. 23 in the Chancery in Lawrenceville. Joe Moore photo.

By David Kilby | Correspondent

Those who provide spiritual care to the wounded and broken are strengthened when their own spiritual and pastoral needs are met.

The eighth annual Chaplains Appreciation Luncheon, held in the Chancery Oct. 23 during Spiritual Care Week and sponsored by the diocesan Department of Pastoral Care, was such an opportunity for chaplains within the four counties of the Diocese. The day focused on spiritual well-being for 30 guests, half of whom were from other faith traditions.

Deanna Sass, director of the Department of Pastoral Care said the afternoon was for all chaplains who are there for those who are “experiencing pain in one form or another,” whether in hospitals, hospices or prisons.

“Everyone here has chosen freely to go into dark, painful places so they might find hope, courage, faith, healing, love, compassion, mercy,” for the ones they visit, said Sass. “You folks bring all these things into the places you serve. You can tell them God loves you, but they’re not going to know that until they experience love. You stand there in God’s name. Your service is immeasurable.”

Angelo DeLorenzo, pastoral worker in St. Mary Medical Center, Langhorne, Pa., said his ministry with the seriously ill and dying is a very special one. “I feel honored to be among this group, knowing what they do on an hourly basis. It’s a very important part of life, to give back. There’s a lot of love in this room,” he said, adding, “One of the greatest joys I’ve received in my ministry are the lessons I have learned from those I have served, how it has deepened my personal prayer life.”

Sister of St. Francis Denis Maguire shared that she has been working in the Immaculate Mary Nursing Home in Philadelphia for 29 years. She shared how her heart went out to those in the nursing home because “when they came there they had to give up everything. They’re lonely.”

Her twin sister, Sister of St. Francis Maureen Maguire, Spiritual Care Department chaplain in St. Francis Medical Center, Trenton, said she used to be a nursing assistant, but switched to chaplain because “I wanted to go in and spend more time and journey with the patients in their time of need.”

“As you’re working with people you feel the presence of God within you,” said Secular Franciscan Lee Hollendonner, chaplain in St. Francis Medical Center. “We can make a difference in people’s lives just by listening to them.”

Dominican Sister Elizabeth Gnam has worked in prison ministry for 26 years, and expressed the importance of a “ministry of presence.”

“It’s OK to just be there and say nothing,” she said.

During the luncheon, pastoral workers were encouraged to fill out a self assessment tool, entitled, “How dry is your well,” to help them identify the state of their own needs, and were provided with self-care tips for those in helping ministry.

Teresa Anderson with the Life St. Francis Program of All-Inclusive Care (PACE) leads an interfaith Bible study and a spiritual direction program through PACE.  “So many people are affected by complex causes of poverty,” she shared, adding that she is encouraged by “the fact that I can work with them on a constant daily basis, journey with them in and out of crises as they maintain or regain hope or encouragement.”

Rev. Warren Wilcox, coordinator of chaplains for the State of New Jersey, shared how all of the chaplains play a part in being the Body of Christ to the ill or incarcerated. “Paul says one plants and another waters, but God gives the increase,” he shared. “As chaplains we know everyone plays their part. We’re just glad to be part of the whole process. (In the prisons) the majority come from broken homes and don’t have a paradigm to work with. We provide kind of a spiritual, moral toolbox to work with when they get out.”