BEING A DETACHMENT CHAPLAIN
IN THE MARINE CORPS LEAGUE
1. PAPER WORK
2. FUNCTION AT LOCAL DETACHMENT MEETINGS
3. ESTABLISHING COMMUNICATIONS
4. PASTORAL CARE
1. FILLING OUT NOTICE OF DEATH FORMS
2. ALL INFORMATION REQUESTED IS IMPORTANT
3. FOUR COPIES TO FLORIDA CHAPLAIN
4. PHONE NUMBERS ARE HELPFUL
5. KEEP A FILE OF DEATHS IN YOUR DETACHMENT.
6. SEND CARD TO NEXT OF KIN.
FUNCTION AT LOCAL DETACHMENT MEETINGS
1. OPEN BIBLE AT THE BEGINNING OF MEETINGS
2. USING CHAPLAINS MANUAL BE PREPARED TO OFFER UP PRAYER WHEN REQUIRED
3. BE PREPARED TO ASSIST, WHERE REQUIRED, AT OTHER CERIMONIES DURING THE MEETING.
4. MAKE REPORT OF SERVICES PROVIDED WHEN ASKED BY THE DETACHMENT COMMADANT.
1. DIFFICULTIES INCLUDES ABSENTEE MEMBERS
2. DETACHMENT OFFICERS MUST BE REMINDED, ON A REGULAR BASIS, TO KEEP THE CHAPLAIN IN THE LOOP FOR SICK OR ABSENTEE MEMBERS.
3. MAKE FREQUENT REQUESTS AT DETACHMENT MEETINGS FROM GENERAL MEMBERSHIP AS TO KNOWLEDGE OF SICKNESS OR DEATH.
4. COMMUNICATE BENEFITS A CHAPLAN CAN OFFER OTHER THAN FUNCTIONAL PRESENCE AT MEETINGS.
1. MINISTRY OF PRESENCE
2. DISCOVERING THE MARINE’S AGENDA AND NOT IMPOSE YOUR OWN AGENDA.
3. MEETING THE SICK OR ABSENT MARINE WHERE THEY ARE AT, NOT WHERE YOU WANT THEM TO BE.
4. YOU HAVE TWO EARS AND ONE MOUTH FOR A REASON: TO LISTEN
5. FOLLOW UP WITH NEXT OF KIN THROUGH CARDS, TELEPHONE CALLS.
6. IF REQUIRED, AND THE FAMILY HAS NO CLERGY PERSON, OFFER TO ASSIST AT FUNERAL.
7. DO A THIRTY DAY FOLLOW UP, WHEN POSSIBLE. IT TAKES A FEW WEEKS OR MONTHS FOR THE LOSS TO BE FULLY FELT.
8. CALL ME IF YOU NEED ASSISTANCE OR FEEDBACK.
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Diploma Spiritual Direction
Permanently Professed Brother: BSCD
REFLECTIONS OF A RETIRED HOSPICE CHAPLAIN ON SPIRITUALITY FOR SHUT INNS AND END OF LIFE CARE.
This short paper is the product of many people who have crossed my path and shared their wisdom with me over the past six decades. It is not the total of all they shared, but certainly, they have been the resource for much of it.
The many persons who called me pastor over a forty-two-year period, and allowed me to care for them, taught me much about spirituality and caring for one another. They helped form me as a person. My heart is still with them.
The opportunities for professional training would have been impossible without the support, encouragement, and resources of the Church and for her, I am deeply thankful.
The Hospice I worked for provided me with valuable training, clinical settings, and experiences that added to my capacity to care for others, especially during the end of life care. The teams, I was part of, shared their knowledge, providing support and encouragement during some very emotive times and places.
Thanksgiving to the near two-thousand patients and their families who allowed me to journey with them as death drew near to them or their loved ones. Each one of them taught me so much and afforded me the privilege of sharing many intimate and sometimes pain-filled moments.
My journey as a postulant, novice, temporary professed, permanently professed member in the Brothers and Sisters of Charity Domestic has been an invaluable guide in the further formation of my spiritual journey in my later years. The opportunity to serve as a Regional Minister gave many opportunities to learn much about Christian Community and leadership. The leadership of John Michael Talbot and Viola taught me much about the community. These years with the community has taught me much about caring for others. I give thanks to God for our community.
My heartfelt love for God, who was my guide and companion in this long journey and life. His love, guidance, and strength were and still are very much present. His comfort to me and those I cared for was and is deeply cherished.
This paper is not intended to be a comprehensive study on spirituality and care of shut-ins and those receiving end of life care. Such work would take many volumes. There are already many works published that fully cover such a study. This paper is intended as more of an introduction to non-professional caregivers and lay ministers in the Church to have a foundation and some guidance in such a caring for others. Many persons who are shut-ins or near the end of life will not have the circumstances where professionals, trained in this area, available to care for them.
The first section, in this paper, will try to lay a foundation, develop a common understanding of appropriate terms and look closely at the words spirituality and religion. They are often used interchangeably which this writer considers being an error.
The focus of this paper is not to cover the roles that other personnel, doctors, nurses, CNA’s and social workers would play with those who are shut in or experiencing an end of life journey. It is intended to focus on the care of the person’s spirituality in this life trying circumstances.
The paper will next seek to look at the spirituality related to the end of life concerns and cares. Consideration will be given to how the use of spiritual history of the person can be a guide to how to respond to the person. It enables one to be with the person where they are in their life rather than projecting into the person where we think they ought to be. Such can aid us in being able to be a helpful companion during a difficult journey.
A brief overview concerning ethical issues will be covered. We will conclude with seeing the importance of formal religion and rituals at the end of life.
LAYING A FOUNDATION
In many, if not most circumstances in life, it is appropriate that we enter with an agenda, plan of action, the idea we want to promote. Much of human interaction seems to have this dynamic in play. It serves a useful purpose.
providing spiritual care for those who are shut in or on an end of life journey perhaps bringing our agenda may not be in the best interests of the person being visited. Perhaps, our plan of action might better be discovering what is on the person’s heart, their fears, hopes, concerns, something of who they are at that moment and, in time, something of their life’s journey, especially their spiritual journey. That takes much time, a building of trust and a listening ear. Brief questions that facilitate their sharing about themselves can prove to be very helpful. It is a journey, with the person, to develop trust and an understanding of the person in their present circumstances. It takes much time and listening.
It is usually a mistake to project, onto the person, our idea of what we think they need. Such a plan of care is usually not very fruitful for the recipient. It is much more fruitful, in providing spiritual care, to first discover how they see themselves, their situation and eventually how they perceive their spiritual needs. Questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no but facilitate the person to share about themselves are most helpful. Spiritual care is not to do something to a person but rather with a person. It is developing a trust relationship so one can travel with the person on their journey.
SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION
In our culture, the terms spirituality and religion are often understood, by persons, as words meaning the same thing. This is unfortunate because those terms point to two different dynamics in the lives of many people. Spirituality is usually individual, personal and eclectic. Religion is more collective; beliefs shared by a group of people.
The definitions that are often used, by professionals, in the end of life care, are widely accepted and have proven to be helpful for many in caring for shut-ins and end of life caring are as follows.
Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the ways that individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant and the sacred. (1)
Now religion works in a very different way. While spirituality is very personal, religion is very communal. In fact, if you take the words back to its origins, “religion means that which binds together,” “that which ties things into a package.” Religion has to do with collecting and consolidating and unifying. Religion says, “Here are special words that are meant to be passed on. Take them to heart. Here is a set of beliefs that form a coherent whole. Take them as your own. Here are people for you to revere and historical events for you to recall. Remember them.” Religion says, “Here is a way for you to act when you come together as a group, and here’s a way to behave when you are apart.” (2)
These distinctions in definitions help clarify, as we listen to the person sharing with us, which arena of their life they are reviewing, clarifying or seeking closure. Persons seeking to walk alongside, of those on such a journey, can find such distinction enables a more appropriate response.
It is usually, not helpful, to go in with one’s own agenda unless it is an agreed upon religious task such as bringing the Eucharist. It is often most productive when one goes to visit with the agenda of discovering, “What is the patient or shut in’s agenda or need is at that hour?”
What can be most helpful is to facilitate the person to begin sharing their own spiritual/religious journey. As they formulate and talk about it they are not just sharing their journey with someone but as they hear themselves talk they are discovering something, for themselves, of their own spiritual/religious journey.
E.J. Taylor, in a study of the spiritual needs of cancer patients, in 2003, found seven categories of spiritual needs:
1. To have a relationship with a higher being;
2. To be positive, show gratitude, and have hope;
3. To give and receive love;
4. To review spiritual beliefs;
5. To create meaning and find a purpose in life;
6. To attend to religious needs such as prayer, participation in religious rituals, and reading spiritual texts;
7. To prepare for death in ways such as asking for forgiveness, completing personal business, and finding purpose in death. (3)
Spiritual development is a lifelong process and there are many variable factors that contribute to that development. One cannot assume many years of living equals significant development. Listening attentively to the person’s journey and the story will be a significant factor in discovering where they are in their journey and better understand appropriate responses to facilitate their journey. When one approaches the end of life one wants to conclude that they have lived a meaningful life, to die an appropriate death and to find hope beyond the grave. Having the privilege of being part of someone’s final journey can assist the person find completion in such a quest.
It seems common for folks, coming to the end of their journey, to be seeking three things of a spiritual nature: to see one’s life as meaningful, to die an appropriate death and to find hope beyond the grave.
There are many dynamics involved in spiritual care. Some of them include a compassionate presence, a listening ear, a caring touch, a sharing of one’s self, when requested prayer, appropriate sharing of scripture, being fully present for the person, developing respect for the person as a human being, religious ritual and facilitating the person to find meaning in their journey.
It is important for one to be open to the person’s reality, how they see their situation, and to honor their point of view. It is very important to understand the person’s point of view and help them verbalize their spiritual needs so one can effectively respond to those needs. Some of the end goals for spiritual care is find meaning “in the midst of their suffering, find hope in the middle of grief, loss, and distress and find inner peace.” (4)
Having a narrow understanding of spirituality can significantly limit the helper’s capacity to hearing the spiritual journey of the shut-in or dying person.
Suffering is often a significant part of a shut-in or terminally ill person’s journey. Suffering is associated with loss, the loss of control, of persons, of health, of possessions, relationships, parts of one’s being. Suffering leaves a person feeling less significant, broken, diminished. It is an intensely personal experience. There are many side effects and manifestations of suffering a helping the person recognize and express their suffering can be the beginning of dealing with their suffering so that down the line they may regain understanding and hope.
ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF SPIRITUAL CARE
The essential elements of Spiritual Care include but are limited to Authenticity, Kindness, Compassion, Respect, Dignity, Humanity, Vulnerability, Service, Honesty, Empathy. (5)
Spiritual care is best learned by practice and growth in one’s own spirituality and caring for spiritual dynamics in others. Studying material, such as this, is helpful but the substance of spiritual care is best learned by doing. Spiritual care means slowing down, really being with the person, having eye and heart contact. It is the art of really caring for the person, not just a job to be done or a role to be filled. It is letting them know they matter. Spiritual care is done intentionally, with compassion and heart.
It requires growing one’s own spirituality, seeks spiritual counsel with a spiritual director, increases your own spiritual practices, being vulnerable to God and His direction, learn from one’s experiences while visiting.
It is well to remember that one’s spirituality changes throughout one’s life span. The spirituality of a child is a distance from the spirituality of one’s life ending. It does not necessarily follow that the longer one lives the deeper is their spirituality. Spirituality depends on so many factors in one’s life it is important to take the time to understand the journey of the one being visited and that takes times and more than one visit. It is good to remember a quote by the Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “perhaps we are not human beings on a spiritual journey but spiritual beings on a human journey.”
Seeking to hear the shut in’s story is a significant help in understanding their story and journey. Such an understanding is important in responding appropriately to provide spiritual care. One size does not fit all when it comes to spiritual care for each person is unique and special, and worth the time it takes to walk with them in their journey.
The very process of telling one’s story helps the person discover the purpose and meaning of one’s life. As one listens to a person’s story, it enables one to understand how the person sees their life and journey and hence respond fruitfully. One is then more able to respond with compassion and understanding. In visiting it is well to develop an ear to “hear” words indicating spiritual distress.
There are items that are helpful in ascertaining the spiritual history of an individual such as their spiritual belief system, their personal spirituality, their integration with a spiritual community. It is well to know what ritual practices are meaningful to them and are their spiritual values that would influence their medical care.
IMPORTANCE OF RITUALS
Rituals, religious or not, are part of most people’s daily life. Ascertaining what rituals are important to the person are significant in providing spiritual care. Rituals provide a connection to ourselves and others. During illnesses and at the end of life care connection is important and helpful to the person. They can provide a connection to others, self, meaning, and purpose. They can help in making sense of life and the world. They can also be a tool in healing.
Religious rituals can have a calming influence on those who experience a connection with the sacred by such practices. Discerning what is appropriate for each individual is an important discernment to make. One size does not fit all.
In our human journey, especially at the end of life, a sense of connectedness is import and comforting in our journey. The person providing spiritual care can be the key player in this dramatic time in a person’s life.
This short paper is not a comprehensive guide to being a spiritual guide but it is written in the hope that it can be of help for those who want to be such a needed person for people during trying times.
1. Puchalski, C., 2009. Improving the quality of spiritual care as a dimension of palliative care: The report of the Consensus Conference. Journal of Medical Palliative Medicine, 12, 885-904
2. Miller, J., 1994. “The transforming power of spirituality.” Presentation to a conference on transformative grief, Burnsville, NC.
3. Taylor, E.J. 2003.Spiritual needs of patients with cancer and family caregivers. Cancer Nursing, 26, 260-266.
4. Puchalski, C., 2006. “Interdisciplinary spiritual care for seriously ill and dying patients: A collaborative model. THE CANCER JOURNAL, 12,398-416.
5. Baird, P. (2010). Spiritual care interventions. In B.R. Ferrell, & N. Coyle (Eds.). Oxford Textbook of palliative nursing (pp.663-671). New York: Oxford University Press.