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Posted: September 17, 2004

Spiritual Caregiving

Help from Unexpected Quarters

Expertise in the physical aspects of healing is, for the most part, plentiful in our modern healthcare system. Sometimes, though, it feels as if we're on our own for guidance on the spiritual, integrative, or what some call ?patient-centered? aspects of health. These two articles point to several little-noticed sources for assistance.


Catholic Sisters and Holistic Pioneers

By Marielena Zuniga

Catholic Sisters practicing Reiki and massage? Some might find that pairing unlikely, but 20 years ago ? well before it was common in the United States ? Sisters were providing holistic healthcare.

?Who else would you expect to be on the vanguard of holistic healing?? asks Sister Anita Schugart, O.P., director of the Heartland Center for Holistic Health in Great Bend, Kansas. ?After all, who started the hospitals in this country??

In fact, Sisters have been at the forefront of caring for the sick for 1,600 years, says Sister Schugart, a former hospital administrator, who founded the Heartland Center because she had experienced the current healthcare system as more of a ?sickness system.? Today, the ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Great Bend offers massage and homeopathy, among other therapies, as well as workshops.

Sister Mary Em McGlone, M.M.S., who in 1981 founded the Center for Human Integration (CHI) in Philadelphia, moved into holistic healthcare after witnessing the health care practices of another culture. As a nurse-midwife in Uganda in the 1960s, she saw how healthcare providers there treated the whole person. In this country, specialists divide the person into categories and treat each accordingly.

?Healthcare is actually built along cultural lines,? Sister McGlone says. ?We forget that Western medicine, as we know it, is really the new guy on the block.? CHI practitioners and instructors offer a variety of workshops and client services, from acupressure to zero balancing. CHI also offers a unique diploma program in integrative body/mind therapies, preparing practitioners for this new field.

While many holistic healing modalities can now be found at most health clubs and spas, Catholic Sisters pioneered their work with a different focus: on Jesus as healer to people of all faiths.

?Jesus didn"t just heal the body, but also the spirit,? says Sister Helen Owens, O.S.F., founder and executive director of the Lourdes Wellness Center in Collingswood, New Jersey. ?When you"re talking holistic, that's what we mean. People come to us not just for physical healing, but healing of the spirit.?

Healing modalities help people get in touch with ?what God is speaking within their hearts and bodies,? says Sister Celeste Crine, a certified massage therapist and Reiki practitioner at the Franciscan Spiritual Center in Aston, Pennsylvania . ?Then they can become the person God created them to be.?

Some have trouble with the fusion of Christianity and Eastern modalities. A recent Vatican document explored some of these practices, placing them under the net of the nebulous New Age movement, and Catholic Sisters are still asked how they can be involved in this kind of work. Answers Sister Schugart, ?I just think somehow it's prayer that brought us here.?


These Chaplains Make House Calls for All Faiths

By Mike Martin

Hospital chaplains throw a lifeline to patients and their families by offering an empathetic ear and a chance to explore fears, hopes and sources of strength. But what happens to patients when they return home if they happen to be estranged from organized religion? Now, a nonprofit organization in Canada 's capital, Ottawa, supplies an option: Home-Based Spiritual Care.

?Patients receive pastoral care in hospitals and institutions, but once they leave hospital there is a gap in those services,? says Sister Mangalam Lena, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary, who with a band of supporters has established a program that appears to be the first of its kind. ?These people are often older, confused, and spiritually lost. They have drifted away from the faith traditions of their youth and they cannot talk to their children about their fears. We are helping to bridge the gap.?

Home-Based Spiritual Care's approach is resolutely multi-faith ? even no-faith. Board members come from all the major world religions, and the board even includes an agnostic and an atheist. ?No matter who we are, we all need spiritual support because we are all human,? says Sister Mangalam. ?Sometimes I get very frustrated that people in high places do not see and appreciate the need and suffering that exist in the community, but we will persevere because the spirit calls us to this work.? Services are free, but donations are accepted.

Now well into its second year, Home-Based Spiritual Care is adding clients and creating a model for others to follow.

This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at Contact staff directly via email at

© 2004 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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