Moments of grace

Students training in psychospiritual care at St. Joseph’s Health Care London enrich the lives of patients and residents – and themselves.

It’s not the usual interaction health care students have with patients and residents. These encounters are often deep, meaningful, intangible moments of grace.

When students of the Supervised Psychospiritual Education (SPE) program sit alongside residents at St. Joseph’s Health Care London, every conversation is unique, meaningful and personal. It’s a chance for residents to share happy memories they have cherished throughout their lives, reminisce on family and friends or share their thoughts about their future.  

SPE is an experience-based approach to learning ministry, which combines pastoral care with qualified supervision and group reflection. The program is open to clergy, theology students and lay persons with theology training.

a group photo of the SPE team
Students and supervisor-educators in the Supervised Psychospiritual Education (SPE) program – an experience-based approach to learning ministry for clergy, theology students and lay persons with theology training.

Kwaku Asumadu and Patrick Martin recently completed the SPE program at St. Joseph’s Mount Hope Centre for Long-Term Care, where they gained valuable experience in learning the art and practice of spiritual care in a clinical setting. The students spend their time in training activities and supervision, as well as participating in spiritual care work with patients, families, staff and treatment teams. 

During group reflections, the students explore meaningful conversations with the residents. 

“We always ensure to meet people where they are at,” says Patrick. “Sitting down with residents and having them share aspects of their lives is extremely rewarding. It gives me a much broader view and perspective on life.”

Patrick adds that one of the best parts of spiritual care is how focused it is to the individual.

“Spiritual care really dives into conversations and topics that people don’t often talk to each other about,” he says. “In spiritual care, we are people who residents can talk to and explore what the next stage of their life may look like. It’s the hard conversations about how this next step might affect them and how they can prepare for it.” 

Heather Vanderstelt, spiritual care practitioner with Spiritual Care at St. Joseph’s and supervisor-educator for SPE students, says one of the most important tools students in SPE learn is how to listen, and what to do while they are listening. 

Patrick shares this sentiment. “Sometimes after speaking with a resident they will say ‘thank you, I just needed someone to listen to me’,” adds Patrick. In addition to the connections the SPE program provides, incorporating students within St. Joseph’s Spiritual Care Program allows it to expand its services and to better meet the needs of patients and residents. 

“When students have a larger presence in clinical settings, referral rates from departments and programs across the organization increase, as does the one-on-one time and visits with residents, “explains Heather Vanderstelt 

Students who complete the program often take many paths in their career. “For some, psychospiritual education is a requirement for their schooling, or their Diocese requires it for priesthood. Other’s take what they’ve learned and stay in health care, or move to areas like prison ministry or psychotherapy,” says Heather. 

Kwaku, who is now enrolled in the next step of SPE, says the program has been influential in his next career steps. “SPE has helped me learn more about psychospiritual care and how it fits with my holistic ministerial perspective,” he says. “It’s restructured my ministerial goal, and it’s something I’d like to pursue to the certification level.”

SPE student Kwaku in the multi-faith room at Mount Hope
Kwaku Asumadu, who is enrolled in the second level of SPE, says the program has been influential in his next career steps.

“My favourite part of this program is when I see everything come together,” says Heather. 

“I call them ‘graced moments’, when students have helped residents move through something deeply meaningful, and they both walk away changed.”

SPE is available in both full-time and part-time courses. Those who are interested in applying can find more information about the program and application deadlines on the St. Joseph’s website

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