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

Spiritual respite in painting for a hospital chaplain

Despite being thrown into the deep end with ‘the biggest road accident I’ve encountered in 25 years of hospital chaplaincy’, Fr David Orange grew to love chaplaincy work through ministering at the Hutt Hospital Te Omanga Hospice.
Apr10Orange3col6002.jpg Working as a hospital orderly in the seminary holidays, he used to pray that he would not be sent to a hospital parish.
‘Of course I was sent to Lower Hutt and when I arrived at the presbytery in a taxi, there was nobody there and the phone was ringing. ‘It’s the hospital here, is that one of the priests? Come quickly we’ve had a very big accident.’
‘It was quite an amazing experience. I rushed to the hospital and someone said, “Come in, could you help me lift this one up here.” I was there for a couple of hours anointing people, helping nurses to talk to people. Two of the patients died. This was my first experience of death.
‘It fixed me for life. As I walked home I realised I didn’t have any fear at all and from then on I was keen to do hospital work.
‘Dealing with people who are sometimes frightened, suffering the pain of not being completely in control, of being dependent on others. I think most people just need someone to listen to them and to know that you’re tuning into their needs.’
Painting a special gift
David Orange is well known as a landscape artist and counts himself lucky that he had several teachers at school who recognised his talents and encouraged him to paint.
His teacher in the primers at Holy Cross, Miramar, thought his painting of a rhinoceros was so good that she hung it on the wall in the top class.
‘That made my day,’ says David. ‘It was still there when I reached Standard Six.’
Br Bernard at the Marist Brothers school was also very encouraging.
‘When people ask me what to do about kids who have a particular talent, I say, “encourage them and praise them for whatever they’re good at. If you dismiss their achievements they’ll probably give up doing it.”’
Well-known portrait artist Sr Mary Lawrence RSM encouraged the young seminarian.
‘She showed me how to use the paints and palette knife.
‘She was a wonderful artist and had portraits in galleries all over Europe.
‘I’d fancied that she was going to teach me but she said, “No, you paint and I’ll criticise”. So she’d occasionally give me a call and say, “Bring your paintings up and I’ll give you a crit”.’
Painting provides spiritual refreshment from the often intense work of hospital chaplaincy.
‘It is a spiritual experience especially being among the mountains painting. Wellington’s a great place to paint partly because it has such a robust climate. I love the storms.’
David is also a keen pianist having learnt the piano for nine years while at school. He finds relaxation in sitting down at the piano and playing the classics.
Tapping into the inner being heals
He counts as his main purpose helping people to get in touch with their spiritual side. ‘Their appreciation of art, music, poetry, their fears, their loves, all come from that spiritual side.’
Despite being expected to minister mainly to Catholics, he tries to talk to everyone ‘especially when you can see that they’re open to being spoken to’.
He’s particularly concerned about staff. ‘The cleaners get dreadful wages and work terribly hard. Some can’t afford to have a holiday at all’.
He appreciates the support he gets from parishioners.
‘They support me with their prayers and friendliness. It’s like coming home.’