Chaplaincy Today Isn’t Chaplaincy Yesterday: Chaplaincy in COVID-19

Dawn Malone, a lay chaplain for the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, ministers to cancer patient Austin Bond, via video conference on Thursday, March 19, 2020 in Houston. Coronavirus has limited local chaplains the ability to minister to the sick or elderly. Chaplains have also been told not to minister to any group more than 10. Photo: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

Our CPSP chapter met by Zoom last evening and it was clear that we all needed to vent. The past few weeks have been quite tumultuous throughout the world, our country, our county and our workplaces. Where we would usually brought cases to discuss and receive feedback, we found ourselves becoming the cases to present. Many felt lost. One member who had just taken a new paid position was now told to stay home because she was in a high risk population. Another member was caring for an ill husband and struggled with the inability to do what he felt such a strong call to do. Another member was constantly bombarded with work calls during the meeting. One member, a Rabbi, spoke of trying to figure out how to have a Passover Seder via Zoom (which she called a “Zeder” – I laughed for about 5 minutes).

There was anger expressed at being labeled “non-essential”. There was frustration with the ever-changing landscape of our workplaces. There was concern about the future of chaplaincy overall: would we be replaced permanently by the volunteers recruited to do calls? would we have jobs to come back to? There was grief over the loss of what was and what could have been.

Above all though was the general relief at being together and having a place to talk to one another and see one another, if only virtually. It was so important to have this forum to share our experiences and concerns, and to hold up one another before God.

It’s clear that Chaplaincy is changing. It makes us doing it uneasy because we don’t know where it’s headed and we have little control over it. I mentioned to the group that I felt the coronavirus pandemic will be this generation’s 9/11: it will be remembered not just as something that happened but something that changed everything.

I’ve included links to a few articles below for your further reading about Chaplaincy in our modern crisis.

Christianity Today: Hospital Restrictions Bar Chaplains from Ministering Bedside

America: The Jesuit Review: What it’s like to be a hospital chaplain during Covid-19

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Chaplains doing what they always do, only more so

Houston Chronicle: For chaplains, COVID-19 forces distance, fear, introspection


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