The pastoral care team at St. Joseph’s includes, from left, Sister Sally White, Sister Margaret Fannon, Sister Margaret McAnoy, Sister Denis Marie Murphy, the Rev. Steve Yander and Sister Valentina Sheridan.

By Cathi Arora

After more than a century, Saint Joseph’s Hospital continues to emphasize spirit, faith and ministry.

“We were founded by the Sisters of Mercy just after the Civil War, so our roots are in the Catholic Church,” said Amanda Rosseter, spokeswoman. “Pastoral care is woven into our cloth.”

Pastoral services are an integral part of clinical care at Saint Joseph’s Hospital, which is evident in its on-site chaplaincy training, 24-hour accessibility and active worship services.

Evidence of its Catholic roots is found throughout the hospital. From the crucifix in every patient’s room to the photographs of the Sisters of Mercy in action and the stained glass of St. Joseph taken from the original hospital, there are a tremendous number of religious artifacts and symbols throughout the facility.

However, the Pastoral Care staff exemplifies much more diversity in terms of faith and denomination.

“We want all patients to feel comfortable with our chaplains no matter what their traditions,” said Bill Garrett, president, Saint Joseph’s Mercy Foundation.

As a matter of policy, no one, other than a priest, wears a collar or other religious apparel or insignia. The priest is the only person on staff required to be Catholic.

“The majority of our folks are not Catholic,” Garrett said. The pastoral care staff is composed of a Catholic priest, four full-time chaplains and several part-time chaplains, he said.

In addition, the North Atlanta Clinical Pastoral Education Center, which is housed at Saint Joseph’s, provides important human resources. “CPE is a very important component because it more than doubles our capacity,” Garrett said.

The program includes the director, supervisor, four residents and up to 16 interns. The interns and residents spend about 20 hours a week on the floors with patients and families, and the rest of the time with supervisors and groups.

Clinical Pastoral Education began in 1925 to offer theological training in a clinical environment where ministry is practiced. The program is offered in many kinds of settings including hospitals, as well as psychiatric, geriatric and rehabilitation centers. Students come from many different faiths, cultures and ethnic groups.

Together the pastoral education center and pastoral care department provide a multitude of services and ministry and are available to patients and their families any time, day or night.

“A unique feature is that we are 24/7,” Garrett said. “We actually have someone here on site, which allows for immediate help.”

“Our staff responds to 100 percent of codes and deaths in the hospital,” Garrett said.

Pastoral care is responsible for all details that pertain to the death of a patient, Garrett said. They work with families to provide necessary arrangements, minister grief counseling and help inform friends and family.

Another unique feature of Saint Joseph’s pastoral program is its chapel and popular worship services.

As with most hospital chapels, the area is available for prayer and meditation. However, St. Joseph’s chapel, which seats 35, is also an active place of worship. Eucharist is available around the clock. Catholic Mass is celebrated Sunday through Thursday, with communion service on Friday.

Worship services have become so popular that Sunday Mass is held in the hospital’s auditorium to accommodate the large crowd.

According to Garrett about 200 people, many from the community, attend Sunday Mass. He credits the Rev. Steve Yander, who he says relates especially well to area teenagers.

“Father Steve delivers a meaningful, concise message relevant to everyday life,” Garrett said. “There is a takeaway message.”

For patients and visitors who cannot attend, all worship services may be viewed on the hospital’s closed circuit television.