WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Lay pastors move into hospital chaplaincy

Patrick Dow and Joan McFetridge

In today’s church the laity are being called upon increasingly to extend their ministry into areas traditionally performed by the clergy. One of these areas is the hospital chaplaincy.

In Wellington, Margaret Luping has just been appointed the first lay chaplain to Wellington Public Hospital, while in Taranaki, Tony Tooman has been chaplain at Taranaki Base Hospital for the past 18 months.

Margaret, from St Peter and Paul’s Parish, Lower Hutt, began her ministry in the hospital on 22 August. She joins the ecumenical team of which Father Ray Stachurski is also a chaplain [see story opposite].

Margaret is the mother of three adult daughters and two grandchildren.

Although Margaret has been in the chaplaincy team for only a short time, she has already experienced the blessings of being with those who are coping with illness in their lives.

Margaret has been a member of Wellington’s Launch Out formation programme for four years. Her life of active ministry in the parish, and her faithfulness to her formation programme, has well qualified her for this specialised ministry with God’s people.

Tony Tooman, who is married with five adult children, is a member of the St Joseph’s Parish in New Plymouth and was for 30 years a dedicated member of the public service.

On his retirement Tony had the opportunity to replace the chaplain at the Taranaki Base Hospital.

Tony was appointed by the Diocese of Palmerston North as part-time Catholic chaplain 18 months ago.

Tony sees his role as a way putting his own faith into daily practice by providing for the spiritual needs of Catholic patients.

Tony spends four days per week bringing patients the Eucharist, God’s word through the gospel and a comforting presence. In addition to visiting the wards, Tony helps the local parish clergy at a Saturday morning Mass held monthly in the hospital chapel and keeps the clergy updated on the condition of ailing parishioners who may need the sacraments.

‘I find the position challenging and yet fulfilling. This is something worth doing in my retirement,’ he said.

Taranaki Base Hospital, Hospital Services General Manager, Joy Farley, said the chaplaincy was an essential and respected part of the hospital’s operations for staff as well as patients and visitors.

Meanwhile The Interchurch Hospital Chaplaincy Service has just spent a week working to raise its public profile. The service has lost eight chaplains nationally in the last six years. It now has 58 full-time chaplains and some 300 volunteer chaplain’s assistants. These people are trained to listen, encourage, support, be with people in joy and sorrow, pray, nourish sacramentally, offer thanks, counsel and bless.