Throughout hospitals across the nation, there have always been both miracles and tragedies that seem to happen on a daily basis. During these events, many people pray for help or seek some sort of spiritual answer. For this reason, most hospitals have a chapel within the building to help the patients and their families cope with what is going on presently in their life. At the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, there is both a chapel and chaplain available 24/7. The St. Louis Children’s Hospital is classified as a part of sacred St. Louis because of the spiritual and religious care that is offered to support patients and families during agonizing times in their lives.
St. Louis Children’s hospital prides itself in embracing diversity, stating that doing so is critical to its success because different perspectives from different types of people are necessary to assist with the needs of a diverse population. St. Louis Children’s Hospital defines embracing diversity as acknowledging, respecting, and understanding different worldviews and perspectives. In order to satisfy this commitment to celebrating diversity, St. Louis Children’s Hospital offers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week spiritual care for all faiths.
While the hospital’s chaplains minister to all faiths, there are faith specific services offered, which include protestant worship services and catholic masses that are located at numerous locations in the Medical Center. The chapel onsite, which is located on the first floor of the hospital, remains open at all times so patients and the friends and families of patients have a space to pray, worship, meditate, and/or reflect. There are also special services and dedications that take place in the chapel. In addition to the hospital’s spiritual services, family clergies are welcomed to the hospital as well.
All of the chaplains that work at St. Louis Children’s Hospital are board-certified or working toward certification, which means a Master’s Degree and residency level of training. The hospital chaplains are very involved within the hospital: they are part of the medical team and partake in patient care, rounds, crisis intervention, family support, and the ethics committee. The chaplains aim to provide holistic care for the body, mind, and spirit to all the patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. They also strive to support the struggling families of the patients by supplying them with strength and meaning through faith. Their specific responsibilities include sacramental services, coordination and leadership of bereavement programs, advance directives, ethics consults, and organ tissue donations and requests.
Gina Tramelli is very familiar with the St. Louis Children’s Hospital as she spent a great deal of time there with her son, Jimmy Tramelli. In 2014, Jimmy was diagnosed with a condition called Arnold Chiari Malformation, where the brain stem grows down the spine, and he had to receive two brain surgeries. Gina quite often used the chapel at the hospital during her time at the hospital. As a busy mother of four children, Gina made made it a priority to spend a little time at the chapel everyday while her son was sick. She said that the space provided comfort to her during a very traumatic time of her and her son's life. During a time when she said didn’t have any answers, the chapel and chaplain helped her feel a little more at ease and more hopeful that her family’s situation would have a positive outcome. Gina said she credits her faith that she was able to practice at the hospital’s chapel to her son’s recovery.
The onsite chapel and chaplains are just some of the ways that religion is prevalent at the St. Louis Children’s hospital. An example of another support system through religion is that of the Woodlawn Chapel Presbyterian Church in Wildwood. The community church provided gift bags to over 100 child patients in 2011 for Mother’s Day. The hope was that the children could make sure their mothers didn’t go unnoticed on Mother’s Day. The children didn’t have time to get something for their mothers due to their condition in the hospital, so the goodie bags provided by the church allowed them to gift their mothers something, thanking them for all they do. At hard times like when a child is in the hospital suffering, special days like Mother’s Day are even more important to celebrate in order to lift the spirits of everyone in the family. Woodlawn Chapel Presbyterian Church’s generous support made that celebration possible for several families.
A recent study interviewed approximately 400 patients, and about forty-two percent said that they use religion as a way to cope with and justify their accidents, disease, loss of loved ones, etc. Another study was conducted by the Gallop organization that showed the percentage of people that feel comforted from religion. The results were that eighty-three percent in the south and midwest, seventy percent in the west, and seventy-two percent in the east felt comforted and supported through religion. On just these two studies alone, it is shown why chapels have been placed in hospitals all across the globe.
Medicine has been advancing and improving at a miraculous rate, but it is still nowhere near perfect. There are still time when even physicians are not sure what to do, or cannot simply do anything to help their patients. It is during these times that both the patients and their loved ones turn to the chapel for peace, guidance, and security.
St. Louis Children’s Hospital officially opened in 1879, but it was not until 1955 when a chapel, the Danforth Chapel, was first gifted to the hospital by Mr. William H. Danforth. This chapel is designed for all types of religions, and the chaplains are there 24/7 for wherever and whenever he/she is needed. They provide religious sermons, prayer cards, bereavement services, and many others. St Louis Children’s Hospital has been full of both tragedies and miracles alike, and this chapel is there to help anyone that may need comfort and support in a time of need.
Lucy Burke is a same day surgery nurse at St. Louis Children's Hospital. As she spends much of her time at Children’s, she finds herself going to the chapel quite often. Even though many of Lucy’s patients do not stay in her unit for long, she often becomes attached to her patients and their families. Lucy said, “I love Children’s Hospital chapel because it is so convenient for me to go during my breaks when I want to reflect and be in peace with God”. She explains, “Being a nurse is hard work, watching young kids come in that are so sick is really hard. As a mother of three children, I could not imagine being in some of these mother’s positions. I love to go in there and pray for them and thank God for my healthy kids”.
St Louis Children’s hospital has help thousands of children over their many years of service. It has become part of sacred St. Louis due to the religious and spiritual support they provide to all patients who are open to it. Religion and medicine go hand in hand and get people through tough situations in their time of need. St. Louis Children’s hospital cares about all their patients and will do whatever is necessary to better their experience.
Researched and written by William Hinegardener, Virginia Luongo, and Juels White.
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