After the second year of studies, all student brothers complete a summer of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) at a hospital. This program is designed to give the brothers (and clergy in general) experience in hospital ministry and to aid them in being formed as pastoral ministers. The experience of working with patients at all stages of life and in encountering people facing difficult situations gives a person a lot to ponder. Because of this, the CPE program encourages its students to spend time doing both self reflection and theological reflection upon their experiences. This is done individually, with a group, and with their supervisor. The programs usually lasts between nine and twelve weeks, depending on the hospital that one serves at.
Mt Sinai Hospital
I was given the opportunity to do my CPE with Sinai Health System in Chicago. There are four hospitals within the system, three of them are on one campus- Mt Sinai (the main hospital), Sinai Children's Hospital, and a Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital. The fourth hospital, Holy Cross, is a few miles away and is a smaller Catholic hospital. I did my rounds at Schwab and had the opportunity to work with: people recovering from strokes and heart attack, orthopedic patients who had joints replaced and people recovering from various types of spinal cord injuries. Overall, I found the patients to be very friendly and positive.
We did hospital visits three times a week, and worked overnight in the emergency room one weekend night per week. During my rounds, I would visit patients and chat with those who wanted to chat and pray with those who wanted to pray. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of people who wanted to pray with me.
The on-call shifts were very intense, as Mt Sinai is a level one trauma center so most of the big cases are sent there. The main patients I dealt with were people who were involved in car accidents, or violent crimes such as shootings, stabbings, and assaults. My first night on call was very emotional as I never thought I would be surrounded by so much violence. It was startling to see how many people came in as victims of violent crime. This gave me a lot to pray about internally as well as with the patients. I found the emergency room patients the most eager to have someone to pray with them. This is because they are anxious, in pain and scared about what is to come.
Overall, I found the summer to be enjoyable. I learned a lot about how to talk with people, the importance of reflection, how to deal with a grieving family and how to approach strangers and begin a conversation. I know that these are all skills that I am confident that I will use again in the future. So, I end the summer grateful for the opportunity to be in this program and I thank my classmates and supervisor for guiding me through this experience.