Melbourne Catholic Archbishop's Charitable Fund
Rosa* was an elderly lady of Italian background, with two daughters. Over many years she had multiple admissions to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and with each stay she was visited by our dedicated Catholic chaplains.
As a devout Catholic, Rosa received regular sacramental ministry and prayer from the hospital chaplain, but her last stay was different. As Rosa’s health deteriorated, the purpose of pastoral care support was to create an environment in which she maintained the best possible quality of life, while dying peacefully.
On the day prior to Rosa’s passing, it was of course the family that required support. During the 18 long difficult days of keeping vigil, they had faced moments of conflict and were struggling with fatigue and exhaustion.
The turning point of this pastoral encounter was the family’s ability to pray the common prayers; a daily part of their mother’s life and routine. With assistance and guidance, they quickly re-learnt the simple, but important rituals that enabled them to connect and engage as a family in a profound and loving way. This time to stop and reflect helped ease their grief and pain.
Rosa died the following morning.
The journey to death is a sacred time. In this pastoral encounter the spiritual care dimension enhanced the journey of dying by providing a comfortable and safe place for the family.
The role of chaplaincy amplified this through the powerful use of actions such as symbol, ritual and prayer. One of these actions in particular, the Sacrament of Anointing (known commonly as the Last Rites) brought compassion so that the patient and the family did not lose hope. The family were taken to a place of being at peace with their faith and with each other.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our staff and client.