At Sisters Hospitallers we want to share a series of opinion articles written by some of our experts, from different countries, where the Hospitaller Work is present. This is information related to the Pastoral Care, a differential value of our Institution.

Article: The meaning of life and the promotion of hope, the challenges of the pastoral approach.

Dr Fátima Gonçalves, pastoral care provider at the Sisters Hospitallers’ Casa de Saúde da Idanha in Portugal since 2004, discusses her work in the palliative care unit; specifically, how patients experience the end of life.

“As head of Pastoral Care services at the Sisters Hospitallers’ Casa de Saúde da Idanha in Portugal, I want to share my experiences with patients as they approach the end of life in the palliative care unit. I will try to be as faithful as possible: faithful to the sick, faithful to myself, and I guess, faithful to God. Faithful to the sick because despite our empathy, compassion, and solidarity, we will never know what they feel when they experience losses, when life eludes them, and when the hope they once felt ceases to echo in their thoughts. Faithful to myself, so as not to succumb to the temptation of idealising or embellishing the ‘journey’ that begins before the patient is admitted to the palliative care unit – a journey with its own heavy baggage that can be difficult to bear. And even to interpret their spirituality using mine as a reference and primary example. Then faithful to God because though well-equipped with care techniques and other expertise…”

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Article: Pastoral care in Ghana

Father Nicholas Kofi Addison, chaplain at the Sisters Hospitallers’ Hospital St. Francis Xavier, in Foso (Ghana) discusses various aspects of pastoral care in the African nation.

The evolution of healthcare over time reveals a current trend in hospitals to meet new standardisation expectations regarding the service provided. Also, this trend encompasses all aspects of healthcare, including chaplaincy and pastoral care, which must be adapted to the demands of a postmodern society (Margaret J. Orton, 2008).

Therefore, in this process of change within the healthcare sector, chaplaincy plays an essential role of spiritual support, understood as a facet of holistic care. As such, it is undergoing a renewal in which, for example, patients of other religious denominations are also taken into account (ibidem). This modernisation affects the concept of pastoral care globally, since it is an element typically present in many hospitals worldwide…”

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Article: Spiritual care in healthcare

Dr Michele Venanzi, coordinator of the Pastoral Care service at the Sisters Hospitallers’ “Villa San Benedetto Menni” in Milan, Italy, since 2012, discusses how interesting and challenging it can be to take charge, as a lay person, of an area traditionally relegated to members of a religious order and culturally considered secondary in comparison to other clinical and social health areas.  

“It is important to note that context can make a difference from a cultural perspective: carrying out pastoral duties at the clinic of a religious congregation is much easier than doing so at a non-Christian hospital, where spiritual care is considered little more than complementary to the huge work done by health care professionals.  

Nevertheless, offering pastoral care to the health centre’s different departments remains a complex task. In fact, only recently has science considered a bio-psychological and spiritual approach to patient care to be valid. Previously, the spiritual aspect was not included as a dimension of medical care. A certain mentality still persists today in which spirituality and piety represent highly personal dimensions of the human being, to the extent that they should not be taken into account upon admission”.  

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Article: Humane actions

Dr Elena Oña, a member of the Pastoral Care team at the Sisters Hospitallers’ Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe clinic in Ecuador, explains how we can show our humanity through healthcare.  

“In 1998, the World Health Organization (WHO) incorporated spiritual health: ‘Health is a dynamic state of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ (Javier et al., n.d., p. 30).  Though pastoral care is said to have existed for hundreds of years, only in 1985 did Pope John Paul II institute the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Healthcare Workers with the aim of promoting care for the sick through local churches.  

Looking at healthcare professionals, it is clear in some cases that a need exists to include basic concepts in their training to outfit them with the skills necessary to provide pastoral services and respect the fundamental values of the person suffering. Individual actions are not enough; it is necessary to design and offer teams training programmes in spiritual care to raise awareness among care professionals (Javier et al., n.d.)”

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Article: Grief in the face of loss: guidelines and distinctions

Dr Silvia Noné and nurse Ricardo Fernandes of the Sisters Hospitallers’ Casa de Saúde da Idanha in Portugal, explain how they have developed a grief intervention programme.

“The grief intervention programme at the Sisters Hospitallers’ Casa de Saúde da Idanha in Portugal emerged from the realisation that the loss of a loved one is unique in the human experience. Though universal, we experience the loss of those close to us in singular ways; it is a suffering that only those who suffer can describe. Though grief has no time, it does have a place and a purpose: to organise our interior and exterior worlds, which have been overturned in the absence of the one we love. The grieving process can prompt questions, induce misgivings, cause a breakdown in day-to-day routines, trigger physical and mental health issues, and be a period of adapting to a new reality in the absence of a loved one.

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Article: Humanism in the Hospitaller Project

Danilo Farneda, Coordinator of AER Pastoral at Sisters Hospitallers (Málaga, Spain) explains to us how humanization is important in the hospital project.

When we talk about Humanism in the Hospitaller Project, we do it from the perspective of our own identity. We are a religious institution and, therefore, an evangelizing institution. The Hospitaller Project must be understood in this identifying sphere”.

“First thing we notice in our centres is that the people we serve do not have a humanising demand from an evangelising stand in the short term. In other words, people come to our centres to be taken care of and, if possible, to be healed. They come because they have a disease, not because they have a spiritual demand. However, from the Christian humanism that inspires our service, we develop integrative guidelines as a response to the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual needs”.

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Article: Healthcare and Spirituality in Palliative Care

The main focus of therapeutic approach in palliative care is the person in need and their family. The suffering of the person who endures an incurable and progressive disease is considered global, because it integrates their physical, social, psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions.

Every single interdisciplinary therapeutic intervention is based on the key elements that support this type of care: symptomatic control, communication, family’s support, teamwork, and support in the grieve. The team that attends in this area must be prepared and able to cover all the dimensions of a person’s suffering. This preparation will allow a know-how and know-be interrelated with the spiritual experiences individually, and as a therapeutic team, strengthening each individual person, which will be reflected in the care provided.

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