Ochsner American Legion Hospital launches pastoral care program

Ochsner American Legion Hospital launched a new pastoral care program Wednesday to focus on religious and spiritual needs of patients, their families and hospital staff.

Pastoral Care Volunteer Celia Joe Black said the purpose of the nondenominational program is to provide spiritual healing and bring calm and strength to those in need.

“Our goal is to address the physical and spiritual needs of the patients, their families and the hospital staff,” Black said.

As a pastoral care volunteer, Black will visit with patients and their families three days a week. She will also be on call for deaths and other emergencies.

“I will pray with the patients if they want to pray, or if they just need someone to talk to or if they have a spiritual question,” she said. “Most people in the hospital are vulnerable and hurting. They just want to talk to someone and a positive attitude does help with healing the mind, body and soul.”

Black hopes to increase the volunteer base of the program as the ministry grows.

“A year from now my goal is to have enough volunteers that have been trained so that we can minister to everybody, everyday in every room,” she said.

The volunteers will minister to patients, family members and staff who are experiencing anxiety or fear, who have difficulty sorting out their feelings and those who are experiencing grief over a loss. They will also offer support for medical staff and family members who are caring for loved ones or who have experienced a loss.

To launch the program, Black and local pastors joined the hospital staff to reopen and bless the hospital’s renovated chapel. The chapel, which is located on the second floor next to the ICU waiting room, has been closed since COVID.

“This room is just brick and mortar, but I’d like for it to be a Holy place,” Black said. “

Black said she hopes those who visit the chapel will find sanctuary, comfort and solace in their souls, know their prayers are heard and answered and that their faith be strengthened, their love refreshed and hope they are encouraged.

Emergency Room Manager Stacy Larry said together the new pastoral care and chapel will provide a calm and reassuring presence.

“I think any patient or family will feel a little more peace and comfort in knowing that there is somewhere they can go in sanctuary so-to-speak and kind of catch their breath with a little bit of ease from the Good Lord,” Larry said.

“May this chapel serve as a place of prayer for all patients, for all who are confined here, for all who tend to them with skill and care so that those who come here will leave restored in spirit and body,” Rev. Keith Pellerin, pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Jennings, said in blessing the chapel.

Rev. Chan Willis, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Welsh and Lake Charles and Rev. Clyde Thomas, chaplain to the Jennings Catholic community, also offered prayers and blessings for the chapel, patients and staff.

Anyone wishing to volunteer for the pastoral care program can contact Black at 337-616-7000 or 337-368-7777.

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