(Reader portrait 6/7) Sandrine, hospital chaplain "The thirst for spirituality is intense in patients confronted with their fragility"

(Reader portrait 6/7) Sandrine, hospital chaplain “The thirst for spirituality is intense in patients confronted with their fragility”

In 2017, a serious illness led me on the way to the hospital. Transformed by this ordeal, I felt called to accompany the sick. After twenty-three years co-managing a family wine business, I trained as a hospital chaplain. In post for six months within the Pellegrin hospital group in Bordeaux (Gironde), I work within a team made up of eight Catholics and in dialogue with chaplains of Muslim, Jewish and Muslim, Jewish and Protestant faiths.

We stand at the service of all citizens, including homeless, migrant or isolated people. This unconditional welcome amazes me. The thirst for spirituality is often intense in patients, because the disease opens them up to fragility and raises the question of the meaning of suffering. The 1905 law on secularism allows patients to live their faith in hospital. Not proselytizing, each chaplain represents a possible resource, listening to the needs of users and their families, believers or not.

My driving force in this mission is Jesus! I visit the sick in his name. As a team, we often discuss the question of the end of life, which has a deep meaning in the existence of a human being and his entourage. Called yesterday to the bedside of a 48-year-old man in the terminal phase of a degenerative disease, I was able, once again, to observe it in his eyes full of hope. I also think of this baby, baptized before breathing his last surrounded by his parents. But the chaplain is also present in moments of joy – healing, birth. Accentuating our presence with families in the pediatric center is one of my wishes, as well as developing our exchanges with caregivers, outside the hospital spaces. Because even if public officials have a duty of neutrality in the exercise of their function, they are sometimes also believers.

Recently subscribed to Le Pèlerin, this newspaper offers me an open, positive and ecumenical outlook on the news. Mother myself, inspired by Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, here is what I would say to a newborn: “Anchor yourself in the essentials by turning to the beauty of Creation. And above all, hope against all hope!”

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