Our Lady of the Rosary Parish Kellyville

Hospital chaplaincy ‘a gift and a blessing’


Catholic Outlook May 2015: DWF Appeal
Hospital chaplain Michelle Davis.

First published in Catholic Outlook May 2015

By Virginia Knight

For Michelle Davis, chaplaincy is being with people. In her ministry as a chaplain at Nepean Hospital she feels privileged to be the one called to represent the Church with people from her own community and support them by listening and being present.

In parishes, Michelle has been as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, a senior server, sacramental and RCIA team member and a catechist.

“All these things have grounded me in my faith and been stepping stones to hospital chaplaincy. Chaplaincy has fulfilled my calling. I see it as a gift and a blessing; my ministry, my mission.”

It was while Michelle was Diocesan Youth Coordinator for the St Vincent de Paul Society Parramatta that her experiences led her to undertake study to enter the field of social work.

After seven years working in children’s health and family therapy she completed the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) course to become a hospital chaplain.

“I thought chaplaincy was a wonderful profession and that my skills in social work, listening and being with people would be of use. The CPE course teaches you to listen to people and enter into their story in a different way. People tell you their story and, hopefully, healing develops out of that.”

Pastoral care calls upon the person in ministry to provide compassionate and deep respectful listening, comfort in times of uncertainty or difficulty, and spiritual and emotional support.

“Jesus heals us in many ways. Sometimes the miracle people are praying for is realised in acceptance of the diagnosis and preparing for a peaceful death,” Michelle said.

“Occasionally, miracles occur that medical staff cannot explain; not immediately, but during rehabilitation as patients often reach unexpected milestones. It is then we see Jesus is still active.”

Michelle’s ministry brings her into contact with people in two ways. As a Catholic chaplain she sees those who have requested her visit during their stay. However, as a ward chaplain she approaches everyone on those wards in her care.

“We ask someone how they are, and what they share are their emotions and feelings. All patients have a life story and life experiences, hopes, fears, dreams or troubles prior to hospitalisation, which can be yet another stress or loss in their lives as they are often making life-changing decisions. Having someone to listen, can help patients come to terms with what is happening.”

Michelle explains that when she ‘cold calls’ she never knows what the response will be. “I am not always welcome, but other times people are truly grateful and respond.”

Some people suffering chronic illness may not have been to Mass or received Communion for many years. “It is lovely when you are able to reconnect them back into the Church and their parish, or journey with those who are non-practising as they receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick at their passing.

“Catholic chaplains get to hear a lot about what’s wrong with the Church and why people don’t practice. Sometimes, we hear the anger or people needing to share their hurt or disappointment.

“I try to reach out to these people. One person who had been hurt told me her story and I cried and said, ‘I am sorry’. My tears started the healing; she just needed to know someone from the Church cared.”

Michelle believes one of the gifts of chaplaincy is listening to the elderly. “Nursing staff don’t have the time to sit by beds and listen, but we can support them.”

Chaplains also listen to medical staff. “You need those in the same field of work, to spiritually nourish one another.”

Michelle said it was a joy to be with people and support them in tough times or at the most vulnerable points in their lives.

“I arrive in the morning and I have no idea what will unfold during the day. It is the unexpected that can make the work very worthwhile.”

Donations to the Faith at Work DWF Appeal help to fund the hospital chaplaincy
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