Pastoral Care Volunteer Chaplain Assistants Needed

There are few times in life where one can into 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. Applications are being accepted now until Tuesday, Nov. 26, and classes begin in January at the hospital.

Chaplain assistants visit hospital patients that 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 at PH DuBois.

One of the volunteers at PH DuBois for the past two years is Libby Shindledecker of DuBois. At first, she said, she was nervous. She thought about how she didn’t know her way around the hospital or locations of the various units. But she soon learned that didn’t matter.

Like all volunteers, she went through the training provided by the Pastoral Care Department. It was very helpful, according to Shindledecker. She learned what Pastoral Care involved and about the hospital. She shadowed Bockus and the Rev. Dave Nagele, PH DuBois Chaplain, and saw how they worked.

“I absolutely love it!” she said. “It is so rewarding to walk in and talk to people who otherwise don’t have someone to talk to…You become a listener more than anything, offering compassion and prayer. I walk away feeling more blessed than I (hopefully) blessed them.”

Shindledecker sees 15-24 patients each time she visits. Each visit is about 5-10 minutes, but there are exceptions. One patient was happy to talk, and before she knew it, 20 minutes had gone by.
“It is not hard to find things to talk about. Most people are receptive of conversation,” according to Shindledecker. Patients may want to talk about family or even hunting and fishing. The topics can vary, and some can be heartbreaking when a patient may share their circumstances.

Of course, the goal of the Pastoral Care Department is to ensure that the spiritual and religious needs are met, so visits have a spiritual and religious tone. Shindledecker starts her visits by offering a daily devotional. “Every volunteer does their own thing,” she said. There is no prescribed way to do visits, but training offers tips and guidance to do it the way one feels comfortable.

Also, she added, the hospital chaplains are also there for support if something doesn’t feel comfortable or if a volunteer is unsure. “We can call upon them, and they come or offer advice.”
Shindledecker also complements her visit by offering crocheted prayer-squares to patients who would like one. The little squares have a cross design and can be held during times of prayer for comfort. One woman was grateful to receive hers before being transferred by ambulance; it brought a sense of calmness to her for the ride.

Shindledecker likes visiting with her fellow volunteers, too. Twice a year, a retreat is held locally for them with a specific theme and speaker. It “keeps us all feeling connected, informed and appreciated,” Shindledecker said.

To be a part of this group, applications can be picked up at the Information Desk at PH DuBois West, 100 Hospital Ave., DuBois. Any questions can be directed to him at 814-375-3426 or via e-mail at [email protected]

“I would encourage anyone to participate in this volunteer program,” Shindledecker said. “You can go in and lift somebody up…and offer hope and share love with them. It’s a huge reward for them and for us.”

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