Star-Bulletin Features

Saturday, November 3, 2001

Rev. John Moody (center, front, who is the head of the
Pacific Health Ministry) is leading a yearlong program
to train people from different countries with different
cultural backgrounds to become hospital chaplains. The
trainees are, from left, Yola Wuysang, Sally Kwong, Felix
Colonco, Kumiko Nakao and Amy Hill.

Patience with patients

Hospital chaplains in training learn
to place conversation above
conversion as they provide a
pastoral presence to the ailing,
injured and infirm -- and
the professional staff

By Mary Adamski

The lively class discussion by intensive care unit nurses about ethical questions that arise when patients face death and families are in conflict demonstrated their intense involvement. The Rev. Al Miles, head of chaplaincy services at Queen's Medical Center, led them in sorting out moral and ethical distinctions.

In their midst at Monday's class were two who just listened. Kumiko Nakao and Sally Kwong weren't ducking class participation, they were exercising their own kind of intense professional involvement, the art of listening.

Nakao, an Episcopal seminary graduate from Japan, and Kwong, a minister with Peace Evangelical Center in Hong Kong, are in a one-year residency program that prepares ministers for hospital chaplaincy.

It is one of the clinical pastoral education programs offered by Pacific Health Ministry, which has trained nearly 300 people to address the spiritual needs of patients and their families. What the five current residents have already learned is that the medical professionals need their services, too.

"Wherever we are, we become seen as the chaplain to the staff," said the Rev. John Moody, a Lutheran minister who has headed the interfaith agency since it was founded in 1987 on the model of a Washington state agency he previously headed. "The presence of the chaplain, even if silent, gives stability to a situation."

"Proselytizing is not appropriate when we are working with vulnerable people. Sometimes we walk into their rooms uninvited. To seek to make converts would be following our own agenda, not listening to theirs."

Rev. John Moody
Lutheran minister

With Christian, Buddhist and Jewish backing, the organization developed chaplain programs at a time when only the two church-affiliated hospitals, St. Francis and Castle, had programs providing for the spiritual dimension of patients.

Besides the nine hospitals and four care homes, which contract for its chaplain service, the agency responds to community emergency needs. Its ministers helped survivors, families and emergency workers after the Xerox shooting and the deadly rockslide at Sacred Falls. They are on response teams for airplane crashes. In the first two weeks after the Sept. 11 attack, chaplains responded to the distress of hospital workers by holding 130 services in local hospitals.

Ministers or seminarians from 18 countries have come to Hawaii for clinical chaplaincy courses, which also include a three-month full-time internship program. It is offered in an extended part-time format for local ministers who continue in their regular jobs as well.

Five countries are represented among the current residents, who take full shifts of duty in emergency rooms just like their counterparts in medicine. They meet twice a week with instructors, writing up cases they worked on and discussing the personal, religious and ethical questions that emerge.

"Patience is a wildly important virtue," said Moody, underscoring how their "pastoral presence" is different from the well-intentioned but not always appropriate hospital visit from family or friends. He led a Tuesday class at Pacific Health Ministry's new headquarters at 1245 Young St. "Learning happens when you get to where the tears are.

"In pastoral care, we have three conversations under way at the same time," he told the class. "First you are listening to the other person, fully engaged in verbal conversation.

"Second, almost standing outside yourself, you are assessing what's the real, meaningful underlying issue.

"Wherever we are, we become seen as the chaplain to the staff. The presence of the chaplain, even if silent, gives stability to a situation."

Rev. John Moody
Pacific Health Ministry

"Third, you dialogue with yourself, what it's touching in you, because we must recognize our own internal feelings," which could impact on interaction with patient and family.

Felix Colinco, a Baptist minister from the Philippines, described his awareness that the hospital emergency professionals need chaplains, too. His class brought coffee and pastry for a Queen's Medical Center unit one recent day. "The doctors were pouring out their thoughts to us, the staff really needs to talk," said Colinco.

Also in the residency program are Yola Wuysang, who is on a theological seminary faculty in Sulawesi, Indonesia, and Amy Hill of Delaware, a Princeton Theological Seminary graduate on a Presbyterian Church U.S.A. ordination track.

A hospital chaplain will help people of any denomination. But if the patient or family wants its own, the chaplaincy will seek a minister of the same church.

The job is not a chance to do missionary work, Moody said. "Proselytizing is not appropriate when we are working with vulnerable people. Sometimes we walk into their rooms uninvited. To seek to make converts would be following our own agenda, not listening to theirs."

Moody led the class in analyzing at what cultural perspectives each brings when they meet with patients and their families. "Each culture has an expectation about how a minister should do ministry."

Workshop to discuss trauma ministry

The Pacific Health Ministry will present a free workshop for ministers on "Spiritual Care Following Traumatic Events" from 8 a.m. to noon Tuesday.

The keynote speaker will be Rev. Arthur Schmidt, one of the founders of the national Spiritual Care Disaster Response Program and director of work life chaplaincy for the Franciscan Health System in Tacoma, Wash. Navy Capt. Tim Morita, Pacific Command chaplain, will also speak at the event at Treetops Restaurant at Paradise Park.

For reservation information, call the Pacific Health Ministry office, 591-6556.

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