Where there’s passion, there’s passio

Josh Daniel, Chaplain at Comer Children’s Hospital at University of Chicago Medicine

I’m writing this from my office in Comer Children’s Hospital at University of Chicago Medicine, where I recently started working as a staff chaplain. Three autumns ago—three!—I attended Bishop Anderson House’s Spiritual Care Visitor Training at my church. I had just decided to stop pursuing the career I had dedicated the past decade-plus of my life to, and I came to the training curious and open-minded, but really just expecting to find something that might—might!—tide me over until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life next. What happened next seems like a fairy-tale: BAH’s training led to a CPE internship (at Northwestern), which led to a CPE residency (also at Northwestern), which came to an end the day before University of Chicago medicine called to offer me this job. Incredible!

Of course, what this fairy-take rendition lacks is what happened inside of these events: tapping into a passion with BAH (shout out to Tommy!), stoking that passion at Northwestern and now tending it at Comer. There are too many tales to tell, too many transformative insights and self-realizations, too many universe-warping patient and colleague encounters, that to start speaking of them would feel like diminishing them and the passion they sustain. And of course, where there’s passion, there’s passio—suffering. I remember feeling acutely out of place throughout most of the BAH training. I remember feeling the odd man out throughout my internship. And I still feel the shadow of self-doubt that accumulated during my residency, wondering if I’d ever get a job in chaplaincy. Now, the good news is not (only) that I got a job. The good news is that chaplaincy is what it is, that it’s built to metabolize our own negative experiences—even our own negative experiences with chaplaincy itself!—for the good of those we serve.

Five years ago, I couldn’t imagine being a chaplain. Now, I can’t imagine ever wanting to do anything else. Thanks be to God.