By Kathy Gaito & Sister Rita Johnson, SSND
The theme for the 2018 Annual Catholic Appeal is “Standing Together to Build the Future”.
Each month we will feature a group who supports our Diocesan Ministries by following this motto through their good works.
As we journey through life, it would be a rare occurrence if we never had to visit a hospital. Whether the visit would be for a loved one, a friend or even ourselves, a hospital is a place filled with many emotions…and sometimes it’s extremely helpful to have someone available to help guide us through those feelings. The Ministry to the Sick at William W. Backus Hospital, Norwich; Middlesex Hospital, Middletown; and Lawrence and Memorial Hospital, New London serves this purpose and is available to all, regardless of religion. Sister Rita Johnson is the full-time Chaplain at William W. Backus Hospital and priests serve the other hospitals within the Diocese. Sister Rita provided the following insight into her role as Chaplain:
As I sit down to write this reflection, I wonder how I can explain what being a chaplain is all about. Perhaps a little story will illustrate:
After she turned off the lights at bedtime, a little boy asked his mother to stay with him because he was afraid of the dark. His mother explained there was no need to be afraid because God was in the room. The little boy answered he knew God was in the room, but it would make him feel much better if there was also someone there “with skin on”.
In a hospital, doctors, nurses and technicians treat the person for what is wrong with them. My focus is on the person’s strength – their faith. I reassure the person that God is here right now. That He never promised to protect us from suffering, but He did promise to be with us no matter what we were going through.
Jesus is the Divine Physician who came for the sick. Through my presence, Jesus Christ expresses His compassion for the sick. His spirit empowers me to touch with His hands, see with His eyes and to listen with His heart. When I give a cup of water to a patient who says, “I’m thirsty,” I recognize the Lord. When a patient cries out to God, “Why have you abandoned me?” I recognize the Lord. We have to look at Jesus’ life to get direction for our own.
When I walk into a patient’s room, I know I am standing on sacred ground. Being a chaplain is not what I do for someone, but a way of being with someone. It is service to others in Jesus’ name. I cannot believe in a God who makes people suffer. I can and do believe in a God who wants to “take” their suffering.
My ministry is bolstered by my “survival kit” that contains three bones. These are: A wish bone – to dream the impossible dream, to hope; a backbone – courage, inner strength and a funny bone – a sense of humor.
If I have been of any help to you personally, or to one of your loved ones, it was possible because of funding from the Annual Catholic Appeal. With the help of God, I will continue to be someone “with skin on,” and hopefully you will do your part in continuing to support this healing ministry.
A portion of this article is a partial reprint from Ministry to Sick: A Journey in Faith (December 1994 Four County Catholic). In speaking with Sister Rita Johnson, SSND, Director, Ministry to the Sick for this article she stated: “This is still who I am” (referring to the 1994 article).
Thank you, Sister Rita, and all those affiliated with the Ministry to the Sick for “Standing Together to Build the Future” of the Diocese of Norwich!
To learn more about the 2018 Annual Catholic Appeal and about how you can help support the ministries in the Diocese of Norwich please visit www.norwichdiocesedevelopment.org to view the ACA video and make your pledge. Or call the Office of Development at 860-886-1928.