Gifts of Being a Chaplain

Posted by Susan Martersteck

Gifts of Being a Chaplain
Rev. Susan Martersteck

I have been a chaplain for Midwest CareCenter for almost fourteen years and before that I was a volunteer for ten years. My children have grown from toddlers to graduate school and along the way my colleagues have listened to stories as my family grew. In the process, they have become part of my extended family.

One of the great gifts of being a chaplain is receiving our patients' stories—slowly peeling the layers and looking beneath the illness to the life lived. A Catholic theologian wrote that in telling the stories of the Bible we, ourselves are told. As a chaplain you support the search for the meaning, the concept of the Holy found in how a person lived their life.

For me, sharing in the many diverse ways that people experience the Holy in their lives has been a wonderful experience. We support families of both well-known religions and those not as well known. For example, we have held a Wicca funeral in the Meditation Room and one patient received her bat mitzvah. A knight of the Bahá'í faith died here and I was privileged to be part of her funeral. I supported a Zoroastrian family and many others with diverse personal theology. Each one of these encounters asks me to step back and consider how to best support them and invites me to expand my understanding of various faith communities and the rituals they have around death. Every day is an opportunity to be part of a team that supports the mind, body and spirit of our patients and their families.

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