As we near the end of our journey through journeys, this week we share three shorter accounts from NACC members about their first careers.
By Sr. Bernadette Selinsky
I vividly remember my week-long hospital stay when I developed pneumonia in kindergarten. The pediatric unit at the Green Bay hospital was full, so I was put in a room with newborns in incubators. Every afternoon I got a Dixie cup of ice cream, and every day my mother or father brought me a new toy. I got a brand-new doll when I got home for being a good little girl in the hospital.
This happy experience started my deep desire to work in a hospital someday. However, I majored in music education in college. It just seemed too hard to learn nursing completely from scratch when I already had a good start with music.
For 19 years I taught music at all levels K-8, accompanied and directed choirs and folk groups, was a cantor at Mass, planned liturgies, was on liturgy committees and gave private music lessons in Illinois, Wisconsin, California, and Arizona. Yet my heart kept yearning to work in a hospital. By God’s grace and with my religious community’s support, I transitioned to being a hospital chaplain. For the past 30 years I have been living my dream of working in a hospital!
One of my favorite parts of serving in chaplaincy is singing to patients who are dying. Music has also helped tremendously with pediatric patients. For years I have prepared and played for various prayer services held in the hospital. I am also still active in parish church music.
Not only has my musical background enhanced my chaplaincy, but my many years of living religious life help me support the faith life of the people to whom I minister. I am grateful for both! Only God could weave such a unity out of the diversity of my life.
Sr. Bernadette Selinsky is a chaplain at Genesis Hospital in Zanesville, OH.
By Sr. Janet K. Furman
I was a junior high teacher for 14 years, and during the summers and school vacations, we sisters worked in a variety of ministries. My experiences (besides earning a master’s degree) included working in our provincial house kitchen, helping to take care of infirm sisters, and serving in a hospital pastoral care department as a “sister visitor.”
And to be honest … I was afraid of hospitals! Maybe it was my childhood memory of my grandmother having surgery. So prior to the summer assignment at the hospital, I accepted an invitation to join the seminarians in a class on “How to Visit the Sick.”
That helped me discover a call to seek CPE Internship for a year. The next year found me accepted and in full-time residency! And now, 40 years after being certified by NACC and almost 40 years in chaplaincy, I am retired and volunteering with NACC and other organizations. So, the lesson of this story is to embrace your phobia. Look where it might lead you!
Sr. Janet K. Furman, BCC Ret., was a staff chaplain at St. John’s Hospitals, Oxnard and Camarillo, CA.
By Maritza Ramos Pratt
I came to chaplaincy after spending 28 years as a clinical dietitian in Puerto Rico, US Army, Texas, and Florida. I took care of many patients in the cardiac and oncology units. I planned special diets for them, helped family members to adhere to the new program, and many times prayed at their bedside.
While I was working as a clinical dietitian in Orlando, FL, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was recovering from a double mastectomy when a chaplain visited me and gave me a beautiful stole to wear. He prayed for me, and we talked and talked. One day I asked him how to become a chaplain. He told me to look for CPE classes online.
Fortunately, I already had a master’s degree in pastoral care and theology from Loyola University, New Orleans. I was accepted for my first unit of CPE at Florida Hospital Adventist System in summer 2004, the only Catholic in the group. I ended with 5 units of CPE due to a cancer recurrence (ovarian cancer, 2004).
Since I used to feed patients and teach them their diets to improve their health, as a chaplain I feed the patients’ mind, body, and spirit with spiritual support from above and a lot of listening and caring for their spiritual health. Our mission was: To Extend the Healing Ministry of Jesus and I love that 100 percent, all the time.
I am retired now from the Adventist hospital after 18 years, due to medical and health conditions, but continue doing God’s job with cancer survivors at home as I coordinate a Hispanic group in Orlando. I also wrote a book, “Sobrevivir: La Vida, Pandemia y Cancer.” (To Survive, Life, Pandemic and Cancer). It is available here. I am now working on the English version.
I do keep in contact with all my colleagues at the hospital and help them as best I can from afar. For a time I was in a wheelchair; for a time I was blind; and I suffered other side effects from all the cancer treatments. But I am alive, by God’s grace, and serving the Lord with all my love. Be blessed!
Maritza Ramos Pratt, BCC, is a retired clinical chaplain at Adventhealth System in Orlando, FL.