Mind, body & spirit: Area pastors play important role in Hospice programWORTHINGTON — As site coordinator at Sanford Hospice Windom-Worthington Jackson, Katie Howell is thankful year-round for the help she gets from pastors.
By: Ryan McGaughey, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — As site coordinator at Sanford Hospice Windom-Worthington Jackson, Katie Howell is thankful year-round for the help she gets from pastors.
That’s why even though Hospice Pastoral Month was observed in October, Howell is well aware that clergy pay a pivotal role in the lives of patients and their families in all 12 months of the year.
“We recognize chaplains because they perform an important part of our mission — caring for mind, body and spirit at the end of life,” she said.
Three pastors serve as chaplains for Sanford Hospice W-W-J: David Lightner of Evangelical Free Church, Windom; Steve Mehl of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lakefield; and Irwin VanLeeuwen of American Reformed Church, Worthington.
For Mehl, lending a Hospice hand has long part of his life. Prior to coming to Lakefield six and a half years ago, he was involved with Hospice for nearly nine years with his previous congregation.
“It’s a different kind of opportunity to serve God,” Mehl said.
Lightner, who has been involved with Hospice for about four years, sees the importance of meeting “people’s spiritual needs at this time of their lives.” He also notes that he and other pastors provide ministry to people regardless of denomination.
“I think it’s important to note we’re not taking the place of a person’s pastor,” he added.
Pastors regularly meet every other week with a Hospice team that also includes a medical director, nurses and a social worker.
“A lot of people think of Hospice and think of a nurse and doctor going to the house,” Howell said. “But we want pastors to be more visible. … I also think there are a lot of times at the end where people will realize, ‘I’m going to meet my maker, and am I OK with all of this?’”
In addition to what the pastors themselves do in the Hospice program, there are other means of spiritual contribution.
“Women of this community and surrounding communities have made prayer shawls for Hospice patients,” VanLeeuwen explained. “They are given to them (patients) at initial contract … and they remind them of this great gift of coming before Him in prayer.”
Additionally, VanLeeuwen said Worthington’s ministerium gives Share and Care kits — which include CD players, CD music, a Bible, writing material and toiletries — to Hospice patients and their families. Kits are returned after deaths and re-used.
Perhaps most importantly, though, is the simple fact that the Hospice chaplains are always there when needed.
“We volunteer for Hospice Cottage and are on 24-hour call,” VanLeeuwen said. “And if a (patient’s) pastor is out of town, we cover for them.”