Oct 23, 2023 | Faces of HDGH, Spirituality
Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare prides itself on our long-standing history of providing person-centred, value-based care to the Windsor-Essex community and beyond. Since 1888, is has been our mission to care for our community’s most vulnerable and marginalized, today, that mission stands and is provided in a number of ways.
When a patient or client at HDGH, your care team may consist of numerous individuals from various disciplines, including nurses, physicians, and allied health team members, who care for your physical recovery; social workers and mental health practitioners to care for your mind; and spiritual health practitioners to care for your heart and spirit.We believe that our bodies, mind, and spirit are all parts of us that deserve healing. That is why we believe that Spiritual Care is integral to our patients’ and clients’ recovery, a part of their health. As we move forward with care provided at HDGH, you will now see us refer to our Spiritual Care team as our Spiritual Health team, a name reflective of the invaluable work that our Spiritual Health Practitioners do each day as members of the care team.As we celebrate this new department name, as part of the larger Communications and Mission portfolio, we must also celebrate the team. In this special Spiritual Care Week blog, we are pleased to share a bit about our Lead Spiritual Health Practitioner, Hilton Gomes, and Spiritual Health Practitioners Sarah Stockford, and Olfat Sakr. Read as each member shares what guided them to work in Spiritual Health.“When I became a priest in 1999, I used to volunteer in a hospital in Brazil. In 2007 I came to Canada. One of the first things I did when I arrived in Leamington was to volunteer at the hospital there, because I saw so many people looking for somebody that was not the doctor or family member, that could share some of their feelings, some of their dilemmas, even some family dynamics; they wanted to talk to somebody that could perhaps help them reconnect with family before they died. And so the hospital would start calling me to come see other people.When I moved to Windsor in 2010, again I applied to be a volunteer at Windsor Regional, and also here at HDGH. One day I came here to see a patient from one of my churches, and the former Chaplain said to me, ‘Would you mind coming to visit somebody that does not have a religion or church, but has a very strong connection with God?’. So I came to see this person and after that, the Chaplain was calling me all the time for ‘unchurched’ people or people that had a connection with the church and God but lost that connection and at the end of their life, they want to reconnect. So I started coming here two-three times a week to see these patients, spend time with them, their families. The opportunity came to be a full-time Chaplain, Spiritual Health Practitioner here, I applied for the job and here I am, almost 6 years later.It’s more than praying, it’s more than talking about God. It’s creating a safe haven where people can be themselves without being judged. And we are able to help them understand that that is what God is. He loves you the way that you are, with everything that you have done in your life, God loves you and He is there for you. I truly believe that He will never turn His back on anyone for any reason. So I want to make sure that we continue to build this bridge between people and God instead of creating barriers for them to access God, to access Heaven. I think that’s why we are here.”- Hilton Gomes, Lead Spiritual Health Practitioner“My Mom is a Registered Nurse so I definitely grew up at the hospital, I was always there. So I always had a huge respect for the work that healthcare workers provided to their patients and the different challenges that they went through. I grew up hearing lots of different stories and always felt like I was very much involved, even though I was just a kid. As I got older, I felt called from God to work in the church, or provide some way to work with Him. As I’ve gone on this journey, I stumbled upon this job [at HDGH]. I wasn’t sure what it was going to lead to, but I had taken some classes in my schooling on Spiritual Health and Spirituality, and had really grown to understand how spirituality is where we go to make meaning in our lives, where we go to find some sort of comfort; to find answers, something that helps us go to sleep at night, to find some sort of peace. My Mom always spoke about how she so appreciated the Chaplains at her hospital. They no longer have Chaplains there and she always shares how she misses them so much and the impact that they had, not just on the patients, but on the staffs’ lives as well - they were able to process the things they had seen or gone through. I always feel like it’s such an honour to be welcomed into our patients’, our staff, and our families’ lives during this time, it’s such a difficult time for so many people and so it’s an honour to be welcomed in and to be able to help them make that mean, to find that process, to be that non-judgmental ear. I always say ‘I’ll listen to you, and you can tell me whatever you want to share with me. There are no rules, no set check list that we need to go through – the doctors and the nurses, they have the wonderful things that they need to go and do, but I don’t have that, I have this freedom, this ability, to just be with you during this time, whether that be in silence or in conversation. We can talk about God and religion and do that meaning-making, or we can talk about cats and dogs if that’s what you really want to talk about, and just be there for you.’”- Sarah Stockford, Spiritual Care PractitionerIn July 2023, we were thrilled to welcome Olfat Sakr as the newest member of our Spiritual Health Team. “I think it started way before I read the terms ‘Chaplain’ or ‘Spiritual Care’. When my great-Aunt was sick and bedridden, she was widowed and had no children, and so it was basically her nephews – my Dad and Uncles – who took care of her. At some point she had to be placed in Egypt’s equivalent of a retirement home. My Uncles and my Dad would go check in, see what she needed, checking in with the doctors, nurses, but it was always a quick in and out, 5 minutes to see how she was doing. I remember prior to that, when her brother had talked to her about potentially needing more care, that we can’t offer you, and she didn’t even let him finish his sentence. She was very offended and hurt, and I remembered that. And so every other day after work I would go sit her with for a bit, to kind of be that compassionate presence to let her know ‘we did not abandon you, we love you, we are still here’. No agendas, just showing up.It was interesting, many years later, I was looking into Chaplaincy, I didn’t know that there were Chaplains in hospitals, I thought it was just in the community, universities, and then when I did my Master’s program, they said my placements were in hospitals. I thought, ‘Huh! I did that a long time ago without realizing it.’ There is a quote that I came across recently, it says, ‘there is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you’. Nurses, doctors, they are all there to support patients in different ways, but there is what is going on inside. Showing up to let them tell their stories, to be witnesses and companions on their journey, there’s healing in that too. And sometimes with the business of needing to get things done, we may forget that that is just as important.I spoke to a patient as few weeks ago and we were talking about some heavy stuff. He suddenly, abruptly stops talking and looks at me, and he says, ‘I’m not in as much pain as I was!’ And this was not prompted. I asked him how would he rate his pain usually, and he said ‘at a 10 and now it’s at a 7! Can you come back and see me?!’. And so when that space is given, there is healing in that that also helps with the care that they are getting at the hospital. As Spiritual Health, we are part of the whole team.”- Olfat Sakr, Spiritual Health PractitionerIn addition to routinely visiting patients and clients at HDGH, our Spiritual Health team offers a number of services:
HDGH has a beautiful Chapel for quiet reflection and prayer. The Chapel is located on the second floor of the Emara Building, to the left when getting off of the elevators. The Chapel is open 24 hours a day.
HDGH also offer two Multi-Faith Quiet Rooms which are available 24 hours a day:
General Info: (519) 257-5111
1453 Prince Rd.
Windsor, ON N9C 3Z4
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