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Valedictory Speech # 2: Clinical Pastoral Education Program - "Together We Care."

Clinical Pastoral Education Course May 17th 1999 - July 30th 1999


When we reflect on the last 2 1/2 months, a number of thoughts run through our minds. We think of the contact we have made with people who displayed great Courage and Hope. This C.P.E. program also helped us to get in touch with our feelings - we began to look at " the real me ".

Clinical Pastoral Education also helped us to explore and think about our own spiritual direction, asking questions such as " Who am I? " and " What am I called to Become?" Our C.P.E. experiences have been for the most part, positive. Indeed, it has given us a sense of our own pastoral identity. It has also given us the confidence to carry out a healing ministry. At the heart of this program is the promise of new doors to enter, doors to learning, doors to relationship and doors to understanding.

Our Journey Together

In many ways, we were challenged by our own potential lack of personal courage and hope with people who were sick and dying. These concerns were dispelled, over time, as we grew in confidence. For example, as we observed patients receiving incredibly bad news, we saw shock turn to hope as they were given the protocols to be followed. If it were chemotherapy to be done, then whatever the known percent of cure became the flotation device to reach shore.

We were brought face to face with the concept of hope from the very beginning of our course. For example: A little lady, sitting in the chair getting her Chemo and sucking on a popsicle said, " I got lots of hope, lots of hope. This cancer is not going to get me! " By the end of the week we were cheering her on!!

Courage is what patients have when they are faced with a changing health situation. It is that willingness to accept, with dignity, a life altering experience. They will not allow their dis-ease to defeat them. They have shown by example, to this group, what it takes to "Fear Not. "

Some of us have learned over the years, while dealing with the sick & dying, to avoid our own emotional pain as we listened to patients. We were conditioned to simply concentrate on our work. Hard work was a good tonic for untamed and uneasy feelings. There was plenty of work, ample opportunity to concentrate away from the untidy arena of emotion.

However, Empathy gets in the way. Empathy can be described as the identification with and understanding of another person's situation, feelings, and motives. Without empathy, we can not feel a patients sense of hope. Without hope, we cannot live, we are dead already.

I believe that we grew as a class to have a better appreciation of empathy; as we began to reach out to patients and visitors in various parts of the hospital. We would meet them in need of pastoral care. Quite often it was a family member of a patient. They would share their concerns and we would speak at length about their health, marriage, religion, anything. We would tell them that we would keep an eye out for them next time and when we saw them again, they would freely tell us how it went, and we would continue to minister to them while they were still coming to the hospital.

It gave us a high degree of confidence to realize that we were recognized as people who were approachable beyond our assigned units. It became our recognized ministry to everyone in the hospital: to the patient, to the family and the staff. It is in this way that we became aware of our own pastoral identity. This process of self-discovery has been a truly a gratifying experience.

This new door is opened for us in our self-discovery. God sees the door of the heart and tells us, " Behold, I stand at the door and knock: If any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." (Rev. 3:20) We have closed old doors in order to open these new doors. In Malachi 3:20, we read, "Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, "and see if l will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out such blessings that you will not have room for it." God will keep His promise.

Clinical Pastoral Education has been a stepping stone, or a door opened in our life's journey, a training ground for a future something that we may, right now, know nothing about. It has challenged us and brought us to the point of saying, " I am able, trust me ".

Together We Care

What do we take away from our time at the Cape Breton Healthcare complex? We have been given the privilege of participating with the health care team and ministering with the "Spiritual " emphasis. In doing so, we have discovered the importance of being God's representative in the health care setting. "Together We Care."

We are of course beginning to look at life after this Clinical Pastoral Education program. The issues we worked on during this course still exist and are part of us as we move beyond our Inter-Personal Relationship group and Personal Supervision. Nevertheless, we believe that something has changed us during our C.P.E. experience. It just may take some time for us to understand it and appreciate it fully. Certainly, our fears and anxieties have subsided with pastoral training.

Who are we? We are the children of God and He has enriched us with many gifts, talents, graces and blessings. No matter what, we will go where God is calling us. All of these riches are to be shared freely with others. What are we to become? We are to become servants, who realize what a privilege it is to journey with people in their suffering moments; to be present with an attentive ear and to listen with the heart.

It's been a long process. We have had the support of family and friends who have encouraged us. They have given us the strength to endure in a program that requires a high degree of intestinal fortitude; a courage to bear your inner most feelings for the cause of understanding the pains of others. I can think of nothing more noble.

We would like to say how grateful we are to have had a super-supervisor. Avery is a founder of C.P.E. at the Cape Breton Heathcare complex and he supervised the first C.P.E. program at this site. This year, Avery participated as a Supervisor to Sandra. Avery allowed us to know more about ourselves. His supervision was helpful for the entire group. His years of expertise in clinical pastoral education was invaluable to us. We believe that his guidance will benefit both Sandra and ourselves in the years to come. Avery, your kindness and concern for us has been appreciated. Your openness inspired us as we searched to find our true selves. Our respect and love for you will endure.

We would like to thank Sandra for all her hard work, time, effort and dedication in helping us discover our Pastoral Identity. Her vision and love for this program is evident in her passion to see improved spiritual care for all people who find themselves in need of such comfort. We highly commend her for the excellent job she has done in making this program very educational and enjoyable. We know that next years students are in good hands. Sandra, our love and respect for you will stay with us beyond the eleven weeks we spent together. We will not forget the kindness and gentleness you gave us when we struggled. Nor will we forget the encouragement you poured on us; as we came to know a little more about who we are. You've touched us.

In Conclusion

This program has opened & will continue to open new doors for us & provide us much growth. We've learned the importance of being comfortable with silence, the gift & grace of being present with the dying, and walking on Holy Ground. It has been a humbling experience, a Sacred moment, and Truly Amazing Grace. We believe that John 14: 25-27 describes what our Clinical Pastoral experience at the Cape Breton Heathcare complex has meant to us.

Jesus tells us:

"I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name. will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you: my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."

Thank you and may God Bless you all.

Valedictory speech given on July 30th, 1999 at the Cape Breton Regional Healthcare Complex, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada for the conclusion of a Clinical Pastoral Education Course by the Institute of Pastoral Training and Acadia Divinity College.

{slight revisions made on July 27th, 2023}

© Dr. Charles Warner 2023

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