Randy Wakitsch has been a full-time chaplain at Centegra Hospital, Woodstock, since 1996 and serves as an Assistant Priest at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church.

I wasn’t new to chaplaincy when I went through the Lay Parish Chaplain Program, but I was still getting to know the Episcopal Church after growing up Roman Catholic.  So what I valued most about the training was meeting people in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago who were doing significant ministry with an Episcopalian mind and heart.  I learned a lot from the courageous willingness of my classmates and instructors to sit with those they served and listen to their stories.

While I was going through the program, simultaneously I was in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village.  What an intense time of enrichment for my full-time ministry as a hospital chaplain!  Reflecting on ministry experiences is a life-changing discipline.  A woman I once visited said, “Welcome to my hospital room!  It is a spiritual garden.”   CPE and Bishop Anderson House invited us to come back to our learning group after a pastoral visit to recall the conversation, fearlessly “watch” ourselves operate as caregivers, and get to know ourselves better as we grew.

Now as our parish in Woodstock begins to build a Stephen Ministry program this year, we are becoming aware of its ability to help us all connect with each other in a meaningful way and grow spiritually.  What we learn about ourselves in ministry is usually quite eye-opening and revealing.  Insights gained and lessons learned are the gifts we receive.  We meet ourselves in a whole new way as we interact with those we serve and open ourselves to the learning process.