TONIGHT I am ‘on Call’, my pager is in my pocket, and I am on duty in the Community House in Cliftonville Rd, waiting to answer any calls for a Catholic Chaplain to come to any of 3 Belfast Hospitals – the Belfast Royal Hospitals, the Belfast City Hospital, the Musgrave Park. Tonight I have already answered a call to the bedside of a 63 yr old dying lady, and celebrated the Sacraments of the Sick and given final Absolution. This lady a lifelong smoker who has never been in hospital suffered a severe stroke 8 days ago, and is not expected to recover, I have prayed with her in the presence of her adult sons, and might even be called back later tonight should she die, but she is already spiritually handed over to her Lord.
My day’s work as a hospital chaplain began at 9 am this morning, when I took over day duty in the City Hospital – where I work as part of the Catholic chaplaincy team. My day was spent visiting patients men & women, young & old, in a whole variety of wards & clinical settings – pre & post op, new & previously seen, gravely ill, recovering, ready for home, – I visit, listen, smile, pray, give holy communion, or a simple blessing, anoint, leave a leaflet, hear a confession, write a note.
Today we had our fortnightly Mass in the Cancer Centre quiet room – 5 of us- 3 patients, one relative, and ‘veteran’ chaplain Sr. Ignatius – an intimate liturgy of blessing, strengthening, intercession for them, for the many who were not able to come, and for the crowds who throng into this building daily for radio & chemotherapies. This full day of individual contacts brought me to a Lebanese Christian family whose son has had his appendix out, to our ageing Cardinal in the cardiac ward, to a daughter grateful to her mother the donor for a successful kidney transplant, to the ICU, HDU, A& E.
This is my 8th Year working as a Hospital Chaplain, part of the Spiritual Care Team of 3 major hospitals in Ireland’s 2nd City. Each year, and day I do this work, I learn more about Health, and medicine, the wonder of the Body, the variety of illness, the unpredictability of good health, the marvels of recovery, the wonders of surgery- and also the very great crosses, sufferings, hardships, losses, individuals & families have to go through. I thank God that there are so many good people working in & committed to health Care, and I am thankful too for being a part of it.
Our Lord’s words ‘Blessed are you Poor’, and ‘I was sick, and you visited me’ I see fulfilled daily as they apply to elderly, the wheelchair user, the brain & spinal injured, the long term ill, the dying, the bereaved – and though at times exhausting, and one needs time away for refreshment, I know it is good to be Here in these wards, walking alongside brothers & sisters in the pain of illness, and the joy of recovery.