DUBOIS – There are few times in life where one can walk into a room and leave making someone’s life better.
The Pastoral Care Department at Penn Highlands DuBois is offering just that, though. It is seeking volunteers to serve as chaplain assistants.
Chaplain assistants visit hospital patients who have asked for clergy or someone in ministry to visit with them.
Though the certified chaplains are called upon for the tough situations, there are times when simple visits can be made by lay people who are specifically trained.
The time commitment is no more than two hours per week once training is complete, according to Pastor Kevin Bockus, director of Pastoral Care.
One such volunteer is Manda Shaw of DuBois who first saw the invitation to volunteer in the news last year.
“Opportunity knocked,” she said, and as a former candy-striper in high school at the hospital, she thought “Why not?”
Shaw attended the classes for volunteer chaplain assistants offered by PH DuBois and was prepared.
The classes are held yearly, and this year, they are scheduled from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Oct. 17 and 24, and Nov. 7 and 14.
All four classes are needed to volunteer, and a one-day retreat and commissioning is held from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18.
Shaw now volunteers one day a week. It’s easy, according to Shaw. She picks up a list of people to visit as prepared by the Pastoral Care Department and goes to their rooms.
For her, there is a little trip in between those steps to the chapel for a few minutes “to empty out the ‘me’ in order to prepare for what God will present to me that evening.”
For a visit, she introduces herself and asks a few questions to determine what the person’s needs are. “They usually let you know,” she said.
“This is one of the biggest privileges a person could have. You are going to a person at one of their greatest times of need, what a privilege to go in there and bring them a little peace or an ear, a prayer, a reading or a really good laugh … most importantly, they (the patients) just want to be heard.”
“They are hurting and they just want to know somebody cares,” Shaw added.
“Sometimes, you’re there for the family and the visitors. Because often [it is] the family who may be heartbroken and hurting.”
She spoke of two sisters who were with their mother, the patient. “It’s beautiful. You see so much love a person has for that family member, and then you have opportunity to ask questions.
“They will tell you beautiful stories about that relationship – and they end up feeling better, not mourning but celebrating what they had in that person.”
Though visits are not long, “it’s never a short thing for me, even with a short list,” Shaw said. She enjoys being with the patient and families and hearing their stories.
Is it hard to do? “No.” And in DuBois, Shaw noted, “you walk into a room and rarely there is almost always a connection.
“Often, you have something in common or you know the same people. It’s like visiting friends and family.
“In my car at the end of an evening, I can look back and know I truly made a difference to somebody in a room I walked into that night. When I walked out, something was better.
“For every time you put effort into somebody else’s life, I can guarantee you that richness will come back to you tenfold.”
“It’s a ministry,” Bockus said, and no matter what the individual’s faith background may be, all religions and beliefs are respected.
For more information on becoming a volunteer chaplain assistant, call Bockus at 814-375-3426 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Application packets may be picked up at the information desk in the PH DuBois West atrium and should be returned by Sept. 27.