One Spirit, One Soul, One Child at a Time
Angels in Action Campaign Fall 2015
We wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Summer 2015 News
Chaplain Joshua Johnson recalls a touching encounter with a young boy that highlights the
important work of the Spiritual Care team, particularly when the boy and his family needed
spiritual support the most.
One of the greatest challenges and greatest privileges of working as a chaplain is being on
call. When I began this work, I viewed these nights with great trepidation: One is only called
in if a family is in crisis; their situation is typically either unexpected or dreaded. However,
these situations are also opportunities for some of our best work. Chaplains are able to be
present and minister to families in their moments of greatest need. The scary and the
sorrowful, if met in a certain way, can also become sacred. Therein lies much of the
challenge and privilege of working with the families we meet in the hospital.
One of these most extraordinary people was a little boy whom I will call David. His inpatient
treatments took place on one of the units I work on, and I had gotten to know him well.
Above all else, he adored his mother, loved reading his little picture Bible, and he possessed a
great devotion to Spider-Man.
David and his parents greatly appreciated the availability of chaplains, especially as his illness
progressed. His mother was very comforted knowing that someone was there for them while
they were in the hospital, particularly that someone could come pray with them and
sometimes cheer David up a bit. She did, however, have a major concern: Who would be
there for them at the end? What if it came over the weekend, or in the middle of the night?
Rarely have I seen such great relief as when I told her that chaplains were available around
the clock. Her face softened and her shoulders relaxed. “Someone would come in for us, even
in the middle of the night? Come in from home?” Yes, I told her, and we are very happy and
privileged to be here for you.
Since this was so important to David’s family, I put notes in both his paper and electronic
charts indicating that the on-call chaplain should be paged if David’s condition significantly
declined. His day nurse frequently collaborates with chaplains, and I asked her to make sure
the night shift nurse knew that we were available as well.
I had to make good on my word and my work that weekend. David had a particularly bad day
on Saturday; his parents were quite upset, and asked if someone could visit with them and
pray for their son. I spent several hours with them that night. David could no longer speak,
but we told him stories about Spider-Man, and read from his picture Bible to him. When David
had been less ill, he had always insisted on closing our prayers; his mother and I did our best
to close the prayers with words like his. His parents could not have been more grateful that
someone had come in for them on one of their most difficult days.
Very early Monday morning, David’s family asked for a chaplain to be called one last time. She
came in and led a final blessing for David as he departed this life. Chaplains do their best to
communicate with one another regarding possible on-call situations, so although this was that
chaplain’s first time visiting the family, she was able to incorporate particularly meaningful
scripture and prompt David’s parents and other relatives to share especially significant stories
about their time with him.
I briefly visited the family when I arrived at work that morning. Despite their profound grief,
the parents, aunts, uncles, and family friends all wanted to sincerely express their gratitude
for the spiritual support that they had received in the hospital, especially during their dark
nights. They thanked us for the comfort that we brought them, the reminders of light in
darkness, for listening, for praying—and above all, simply for being there.
One day in the early afternoon an employee came to Rev. Dr. Dagmar Grefe’s office. “I spent some time in the interfaith chapel and wanted to let you know that there is a woman crying and very upset.” Grefe thanked the employee and entered the interfaith chapel. The woman was kneeling in front of a small cross on the wall. Tears were running down her face. Rev. Grefe approached the woman: “My name is Dagmar, and I am a chaplain here. You may want to have some private time but if you would like to talk, I’d be happy to sit down.” The woman nods and invites Grefe to sit next to her. She pours out her concerns. Her son is in surgery – he has had surgery several times in the past. She is anxious and she is tired. “I don’t know why this is happening or where everything leads – but (turning to the cross) God, I am showing up.” Her son is 17 and she feels he has taught her so much in how he has handled his illness. Her husband is very supportive but almost all of her family lives abroad. Grefe and the mother talk about the mother’s resources that help her cope and give her strength.
As they speak, one staff member enters the chapel, sitting down behind Grefe to rest for a moment. A nurse enters and kneels before the Lady of Guadalupe praying silently. Now, four persons are in the small interfaith chapel and it is filled. Grefe wonders if the other visitors and limited privacy will keep the mother from sharing. But she continues – she seems to need to express her feelings right now. After about 40 minutes the mother has stopped crying and takes deeper breaths. She is ready to go back to the surgery waiting room. Grefe suggests to get her a cup of herb tea from the spiritual care office nearby. The mother’s face lights up as she holds the warming tea cup in her hands. She says: “I had a crisis, and now I am much calmer. Thank you.”
This brief encounter illustrates how crucial a place of emotional respite is for our patients, families, and staff alike. Within 40 minutes it provided space for employees to gather their thoughts and quiet their mind in the midst of a day with challenging encounters. For the mother who had a patient in surgery it provided a safe sanctuary where she could express her feelings without being worried about upsetting her son. She could name her sorrows and reconnect with what gave her strength so she could go back out and be there for her son when he woke up from surgery.
For many of our families a visit to our hospital means a moment of crisis in their lives. Having a safe place of respite, a sanctuary, can make all the difference.
Chaplain resident Brian Symonds fondly recalls one encounter with a couple who inquired about getting married. Rick and Ashlie wished to have the ceremony in the hospital, right next to their infant son who was in the Newborn and Infant Critical Care Unit.
Symonds spent time with the parents and learned it was during their baby’s admission to CHLA that they realized they were ready to make a lasting commitment to each other through marriage. The following day, Symonds, who is licensed to conduct weddings, performed the ceremony, right beside the newborn’s isolet. Spiritual Care Services provided cake, tea and a wedding card signed by several of the chaplains and nurses.
San Gabriel Valley (SGV) Arsenal Baseball Team
Showcases Their ‘Team Spirit’
By Partnering with
Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles’
Spiritual Care Guild
Pictured above: Heather Dinger, Diana Casares Bell, Sue Brian, Pamela Groff, Michael Viera, Kathy Osegueda, Mary Minassians
Michael Viera, founder of SGV Arsenal always wanted his program to encompass more than just baseball. His motto for the organization and goal for his players is “athletes for others”.
Beginning in November, VIERA started an outreach program to collect bibles for the Spiritual Care Department of Children’s Hospital, an organization that provides spiritual support to children and their families of all faiths in times of loss, injury or illness. With the help of SGV Arsenal parent and guild member, Pamela Groff, they proceeded to collect donations. Viera was humbled by the outpouring of support- especially the eagerness of the boys to contribute to such a worthy cause.
On Thursday, March 5th, 2015, Viera proudly presented a check for $2,555.00 to the Board members of The Spiritual Care Guild and Dr. Dagmar Grefe, Manager of Spiritual Care at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The program was so successful that he hopes to make it an annual event.
*SGV Arsenal Baseball was founded by Viera in 2001 to teach and instill the fundamental keys to the game of baseball. His organization strives to develop players who are good young men both on and off the field. In 2014 alone, over 100 SGV Arsenal alumni played collegiate baseball; 38 professionally and six in the MLB.
Summer 2014 News
This past July 2014 the Spiritual Care Guild Department expanded their reach and services, offering an additional Memorial Program. Every December, Spiritual Care Guild has assisted in the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Candle-lighting Service, an internationally coordinated memorial that allows the families of patients that had passed during the past year to return to honor and remember their precious children. Always very moving, the services fill a tremendous need, with the auditorium spilling over with mourners that have traveled from far and wide. Because of the Sunday evening time as well as the limited capacity, the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles medical staff has not traditionally had the opportunity to participate. As Spiritual Care Guild has experienced with “tea for the soul”, the staff’s tireless care and devotion brings them close to the children and families, greatly impacting them when they lose one of their patients. Giving the staff the opportunity to mourn and memorialize these small souls is important as well. So this July a service was created to help serve that purpose. The location was changed to an auditorium within the hospital, held on a weekday afternoon so that staff could more easily attend and participate. Several staff presented, tearfully recounting their love and commitment to their patients, as well as the privilege they feel with the honor of attending to such special and brave special children. A procession formed, a bell chimed and the name of each child was announced. Instead of lighting candles, a single long-stem red rose was presented, filling vase after vase with bouquets. Spiritual Care Guild member Michele Patzakis along with the Very Rev Father John Bakas performed musical selections. With her voice breaking and tears running down her face, a staff director profoundly proclaimed that sometimes God does give us more than we can handle. She felt that was because He knows that we then must reach out to a higher power and others, bringing us closer to Him and one another through the pain and suffering. It was thus so fitting to create this additional service and facilitate bringing together the staff and families, allowing them the opportunity to grieve together, supporting one another during their greatest need.
Summer Intern Graduation – Congratulations!
The Spiritual Care Guild welcomes you to be a part of our 11th year serving the children, families, medical staff and administration of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. We continue to support the dedicated staff, interns and chaplains of the Spiritual Care Department with our Tea for the Soul cookies, baptismal kits, prayer cards and fundraisers. We continue to bring awareness of the importance of spiritual care in the hospital setting to our schools and our communities and actively seek out new members to join our efforts. We are in the middle of our annual Angels in Action Giving Campaign and we urge you to support our efforts and thank you for your continued support! Together we can make a difference!
Sincerely, 2014-2015 Board Members
Save the Date Thursday, December 4, 2014 Spiritual Care Guild Holiday Event!
Save the Date Friday, December 12, 2014 Cookie Bagging for Candlelight!
Fall 2013 President’s Message
The Spiritual Care Guild welcomes you to our 2013-2014 year of celebration! This year marks the 10th year anniversary of our guild. Ten years ago, a group of inspired and caring women, joined with Father Sigler’s vision to provide continuous spiritual care for the fearful and suffering patients and families entering Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. This journey continues. We look forward to the events of this year that bring us together to celebrate and further our commitment to provide the spiritual gifts of compassion, care, and kindness.
Please take note of the calendar of events listed below. In a few weeks our fall Angels in Action donor campaign begins. Our committee chairs will be sending you a letter, asking for any level of financial commitment. Please read their letter and respond. This year there is a website link for you to view a very brief video of personal testimony from a parent supported by the Spiritual Care Department. Please take 3 minutes to witness how you support those in need of spiritual care.
This last year, Spiritual Care concluded the year with another very successful Glorious Gardens Tour providing opportunity to visit not only glorious gardens, but shop at unique boutiques , lunch with food catered by Wolfgang Puck, and mingle with fabulous friends enjoying hand-crafted beer. I hope you attended, if not, this Spring 2014 our Benefit committee is creating an anniversary event of nostalgia for family and friends. Please mark the calendar for May 10th. Details to come. Please visit our website often for additional information or to make on-line donations.
I look forward to seeing you this year and please be a part of this journey helping others.
Blessings to you,
President Spiritual Care Guild
You’re invited to our first all-member meeting of the year!
Come join us and participate in a fun outreach activity and hear from two very special speakers…Rev. Dagmar Grefe, PhD, the manager of the Spiritual Care Department and Melissa DoVale, from the Foundation Relations Departmentwho will share with us how our Guild helps support the staff and families of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.Please feel free to bring a friend or two with you!We hope you’ll come and explore the opportunity for fun, friendship and nourishing the souls of those in need.For more information about SCG please visit our website, http://www.spiritualcareguild.
Spiritual Care in Action
From Rev. Dagmar Grefe, PhD
Three Chaplain Residents Graduate:
In the past year the Spiritual Care Guild funded three chaplain residents for 9 months. The residents served children and families – as well as staff – throughout the hospital. Along with interns and staff they were available for on-call and came in for numerous emergencies providing comfort, presence, and counsel in difficult times.
Debbie Baroi and Donna Gilmour from the Spiritual Care Guild attended the Graduation Ceremony and could witness moving testimonies from interns and residents who were moved to tears as they told stories about their experiences at Children’s Hospital. They appreciated the support they experienced from staff, celebrated their growth, and thanked the Guild for making their experiences possible.
From the right: Spiritual Care Guild President Debbie Baroi, former President Donna Gilmour, Chaplain Resident Lorriane Ceniceros, Chief Operating Officer of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Rod Hanners, Director of Clinical Education and Professional Development Suzanne Taylor
All residents move to congregational ministry and are grateful for what they have learned about crisis intervention and providing spiritual comfort for children and families. Below, one of them, Rev. José Angulo, describes his work with a patient and his mother.
At night, I cry out in Your presence.” (from Psalm 88)
“When I meet Claudia, she cried constantly because her three-year old son, Giovanni, had been diagnosed with a relapse of a brain tumor that had spread to his spine. Through tears she would speak of her anguish and frustration of feeling so helpless and unable to do anything about his intractable pain. Claudia is a woman of faith and she found herself asking God, why this could be happening to Giovanni. During one of my visits, she spoke about the meaning of being Giovanni’s mother, and how he had become her purpose in life. Caring for him gave her immense satisfaction. The progression of his disease often left her feeling hopeless and overwhelmed with sorrow. Summarizing this feeling she said “He is just laying there on that bed”. Claudia found comfort in Scripture, especially Psalm 88. She found herself in the Psalm. It speaks of someone who is suffering terribly. She lifted her voice to God, hoping for an answer, and although the response may be delayed or even may never come, she remains firm with the conviction that God is able to sustain her despite the pain and grief. Similar to the poet, Claudia has found a resolution in how to face Giovanni’s illness.
I feel privileged to have been part of Claudia’s and Giovanni’sjourney as well as having accompanied so many families to whom I have listened, with whom I have prayed, and whom I have accompanied in anguish. Thank you for your support.”
After two months of emotional support for the critically ill young Giovanni and his mother, Chaplain Resident José celebrates Giovanni’s progress and relieve from pain. Giovanni was able to talk, walk again, and to enjoy pizza.
Cookie Drop-Off and Bagging
Please attend our All Member Cookie-bagging event held Friday, December 6th. Bring three dozen holiday cookies on December 6th for wrapping for Sunday’s Candle Lighting
Ceremony at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Our annual goal is to contribute 1,200 cookies to the families of Sunday’s memorial.
Candle Lighting Ceremony
This year the Spiritual Care Department of Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles is expecting
over 500 family members and friends to attend the Sunday evening, December 8th 2013,
Candle-lighting Memorial Ceremony held at the Saban Auditorium. This yearly memorial
provides a solemn evening where family members and friends gather to honor the lives
of their departed child. Our guild’s members give support to the Spiritual Care
Department’s traditional evening of remembrance.
Wells Fargo Grant
Spiritual Care Guild was notified we received $1,000 grant to support our chaplaincy
goals for Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. This is the third year we have applied
and received this grant. We are thankful for the support and recognition from Wells
To the Benefit Committee and Chairs for putting on a successful Glorious Garden Tour 2013!!
To the Ru Family for being the host garden!
To Heidi Johnson for creating a new SCG video for our Angels in Action campaign!
To Doris Cheung for consistently baking and bringing cookies to CHLA all year!
To Suzanne Hart for assisting with new Wells Fargo Grant!
A Special Gift: “Tea for the Soul”
Staff kudos for Tea for the Soul
The Heart Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is ranked among the top
in the nation for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery by US News & World Report.
The 24 bed Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU) is the crown jewel of the
Heart Institute. It is a highly specialized unit that provides comprehensive medical
and surgical services to critically ill children with heart defects. The highly
trained multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses and respiratory care practitioners
provide the highest quality of care needed by these patients during the most critical
period of their care. The staff provides care to patients after heart transplant
and to babies with complex heart defects who need urgent open heart surgeries for
their survival. It is a high intensity environment. This is where the program of
the Chaplain Services ” TEA for the SOUL” has fit in so perfectly. The wonderful
cookies and special tea brought in by our chaplains have provided a great healing
for all of us in the unit. It provides us time to recover and rejuvinate. A short
break in a private area to enjoy calmness and support from each other is amazing.
I truly appreciate the effort, the caring, and support our chaplains have been providing
us. Thank you and we love you all!!!
Calendar of Events
* 10/17- General Meeting/Outreach Workshop
* 12/6 – All Member Outreach Cookie Bagging
* 12/8 – Candle Lighting Ceremony at CHLA
* 2/07 – General Meeting/Hospital Tour at CHLA/New Membership Drive
* 3/20 – Outreach Workshop
* 5/04 – Spring Benefit: 10th Year Anniversary Celebration
The Mission of Children’s
Hospital Los Angeles
“We create hope and build healthier futures”