A Chaplain’s Journey
Kim Lessner, Parish Operations Manager at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Barrington, graduated from Volunteer Chaplain Training in the Spring of 2013.
When applying for the Bishop Anderson House Volunteer Lay Chaplain Training, I felt a strong call to the hospital environment and paying it forward after recent personal experiences. BAH was currently in the process of developing a relationship with The Rev. Neris Diaz, the Chaplain at Sherman Hospital, Elgin, and it was agreed that I spend two hours weekly with patients with a one hour supervisory visit to follow.
The first week I shadowed Neris to a few patient rooms and the next week was on my own. It has been an absolutely amazing experience for me. I further use the Screen for Spiritual Struggle to determine if a visit from the professional chaplain is warranted. There were some weeks where I was able to make a deep connection with patients when they shared their stories. There have been weeks where you share in the joy of a newborn baby. There are times when you don’t get into any further conversation than the initial questions and the screen. And there are times when you just sit there and listen, just being with the patient.
After a several weeks of doing rounds, Neris asked if I would ever be willing to share my own story about breast cancer in a more direct fashion. I mentioned it was something I’ve thought about but had not pursued very deeply. I was presented with the opportunity to be a speaker at the hospital’s monthly breast cancer support group meeting. That was another deeply moving time. To listen to the different woman in the room brought back things I had forgotten, moments to share what different reactions were had during treatments, and the range of emotions that were felt. This was something I did not do myself while in treatment and was glad I was able to have the experience.
As I neared the end of the Volunteer Chaplain Training, I asked Neris if there was an opportunity for long term volunteer work at Sherman. She felt I would be a good fit visiting people in the Cancer Care Center. So since late April, I have been ministering to the patients in active chemo treatment. There are no words that can express the depth of the relationships that I have made with these patients.I feel extremely blessed that God has given me these opportunities to be a part of someone’s life, whether they were alone and in pain, celebrating the birth of a new child, or somewhere in between. I look forward to what the future holds for my ministry at Sherman. I also am deeply grateful for the fine group of folks who have provided us such wonderful training through Bishop Anderson House.