2012-2013 Annual Report

Report on Spiritual Care

A Window on the Past -  A Vision of Our Future

While this past year saw farewells to familiar and comforting facilities, so too did we welcome the new, emerging walls that will embrace the care we provide into the future.  

Here we capture highlights from spiritual care’s initiatives this past year. 

Meditation groups are flourishing. Over the past year, one of the most poignant was at St Joseph’s Hospital on Sept. 20, where Chaplain Heather Vanderstelt guided staff through the ritual of saying goodbye to the often travelled halls before demolition began. Links to following 

A Walk Through Time 

Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital reflected on their past, present, and future as they walked the hallways at St. Joseph’s Hospital that were about to close for construction.

"It was a walk down memory lane, an opportunity to remember people and events that have been a part of our lives working at St. Joseph’s Hospital," says chaplain Heather Vanderstelt. "As we walked these spaces one last time we remembered past emotions, acknowledged present emotions, and looked towards the future." 

The "A" wing at St Joseph’s Hospital was not the only part of St Joseph’s where memories stirred emotions. In Demolition and Hope:  A Chaplain Remembers, chaplain and teaching supervisor Marvin Shank looks back over the past 30 years.

Demolition and Hope: A Chaplain Remembers

The demolition of the old St. Mary’s annex at Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care brought back memories of the evolution of St. Joseph’s as an organization for Chaplain Marvin Shank. 

"I remember when St. Joseph’s Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital and Marian Villa were three separate organizations operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph," he says. "Under the leadership of Sister Mary Doyle, the three were merged into St. Joseph’s Health Centre. Next, the provincial health services restructuring saw Parkwood Hospital and the psychiatric hospitals in London and St. Thomas join the organization which then became St. Joseph’s Health Care London.

Marvin Shank 
Marvin Shank points to the office being demolished where he began his chaplaincy career at Mount Hope in 1982.

The profession of spiritual care has evolved significantly since 1982 when Marvin was the only non-Roman Catholic chaplain in a team that included Sisters and priests.  

While professional chaplaincy and training started in mental health hospitals in the 1960s, volunteers who were often retired Sisters offered spiritual care at St. Joseph's Hospital and Mount Hope until the 1980s.  The 1980s ushered in many changes including a budget dedicated to spiritual care, professional health care training for spiritual care providers, field education for seminarians, and the advent of accredited Clinical Pastoral Education programs which continue to this day. Today, spiritual care serves the patients, residents and staff at all St. Joseph's facilities.

Spiritual care continues to evolve.  St. Joseph’s chaplains are now trained and certified by the Canadian Association for Spiritual Care, and in 2014 spiritual care will be included in a new Ontario regulatory college.

The Sisters of St. Joseph brought compassion, respect, and personal presence to all aspects of service, believing that such qualities contribute to health and well-being.  They led the way for the expanding engagement of spiritual, religious, human and ethical features of Catholic health care.  And they fed the roots of spiritual care that has become a strong allied health care profession.  

Yes there has been much demolition and reconstruction to our buildings of late. However preservation of the chapel built in 1915, and preservation of St. Joseph’s legacy of providing the London community with compassionate care was the underlying theme when the chapel at St. Joseph’s Hospital closed its doors in September. Until the new chapel opens in 2015, a temporary chapel is in place in a separate room next to the cafeteria atrium. 

Roman Catholic Mass 
Preserving Our Sacred Space: A special Roman Catholic Mass was held before this historic chapel at St. Joseph's Hospital closed for safekeeping during construction.

Celebrating what has been and what will be preserved, blessings continue to be central to the celebrations when new areas open. 

These blessings will continue as we look forward to the opening of our new Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care in St. Thomas on June 14. 

Fr. Prieur performing a blessing 
Father Michael Prieur blessing the newly-created space for the Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Not only have we been reminiscing and visioning in the past year, but there has also been some creative work done in the field of qualitative study within the Breast Care Centre led by chaplain Heather Vanderstelt.

Spiritual Care for Breast Care Patients

Chaplain Heather Vanderstelt at St Joseph’s Hospital is working with the nurse navigators and advanced practice nurses in the Breast Care Centre to conduct a study aimed at improving the care journey for breast care patients and highlighting the importance of spiritual care for them. 

Research shows that women tend to experience heightened levels of anxiety/distress throughout the diagnostic and treatment process for breast abnormalities, regardless of whether it is a benign or cancerous diagnosis. For some women, this anxiety lingers even after the threat of breast cancer has passed. 

Using surveys and the ‘Perceived Stress Scale’, this qualitative improvement project will assess the emotional and spiritual experience of the typical patient being seen by the Breast Care Centre for a breast abnormality during the diagnostic and post-operative phases. This data will then be used to evaluate the adequacy of the support being offered to these patients and to enhance support as needed. 

So on our walk into the future with a necessary look to our proud heritage, spiritual care continues to make a difference at St. Joseph’s Health Care London.  

Ciaran McKenna
Spiritual Care Coordinator 

View Spiritual Care's 2012/2013 Moments in Time: