Jess Monopoli – Chaplaincy Volunteer
“I’m training to become a Church of England priest. I’ve been on my placement here at the Hospice since September 2022 and will leave in May 2023 in advance of my ordination in July. I volunteer one day a week on a Thursday. My role as a Chaplaincy Volunteer is to support staff, families and patients. I have been studying at Cranmer Hall which is a theological college and part of St John’s College at Durham University. I’m so pleased that we have been able to establish even more links with Cramner Hall during my time here, so that when I leave, other volunteers are already in line to volunteer their time to help those in the Hospice.
My main role as a Chaplaincy Volunteer is to listen.
Chaplains are never restrictive and speak to people of all faiths, and those who might not have a faith at all. We will talk to anyone who wants to chat.
From my experience, I’ve found that as a Chaplain, I try and move at a different pace to the rest of the team on the In-Patient Unit, with the intention of listening with no agenda, I hope that through this, I act as a calming presence for both staff and patients.
I try to meet people where they are.
There is often a real breadth of conversation going on in the Hospice. Sometimes I talk to patients and families on the In-Patient Unit about big life questions, like what happens when we die or what happens when we are afraid, and other times we might be chatting about what’s been on the tv and who is going to win Dancing on Ice.
I might be a presence at someone’s bedside if they need me, or I might signpost to other religious and spiritual organisations in County Durham that might be more suitable for patients and families to speak with. For example, we had a patient who wanted to speak with a Roman Catholic Priest and we were able to organise for this to happen.
I also help support Hospice staff, if they need me.
I’ve been running a spirituality group and book club on a Thursday with some of our Living Well Centre Guests and their carers. We’re currently reading The Shack by William B Young (which is also a film on Netflix.). The book club has been so enjoyable, and we’ve had some fantastic discussions in the group about all sorts of things, using the book as a conversation starter.
It’s important for me to live out the Gospel in my actions, rather than preaching it, when I speak with people – sometimes people worry that as Chaplains, we’re there to convert them or only talk about God, this is never our primary aim, of course, we care about our faith, but we deeply respect others’ beliefs and understandings and the patient always sets the agenda.
For me, the best part of my role is receiving an invitation into someone’s life and to be able to walk alongside them on their journey (at the Hospice). To be able to establish connections with people and relieve some of the weight of their pain, is a real privilege for me.”
The Reverend Stephen Martin – Volunteer Chaplain
“I am a Priest in the Church of England, Diocese of Durham and have been volunteering at the Hospice since November 2022. I am a curate of my Parish which includes Lanchester, Burnhope, Annfield Plain and Leadgate and I am able to volunteer my time at both St Cuthbert’s Hospice and Willowburn Hospice in Lanchester.
The sense of community here and the atmosphere amongst the staff is fantastic. They all get on so well and look after each other.
On a Friday, which is the day I visit St Cuthbert’s, I try to attend the morning handover for the In-Patient Unit and Living Well Centre to find out what has been going on. I’ll then visit the rooms on the In-Patient Unit to see if anyone would like to chat. I wear a clerical collar so most people may see me and identify me as a Chaplaincy volunteer straight away. This can be different for Jess, as she does not wear a clerical collar.
My role is to build relationships. Sometimes when I chat to people there is no mention of God or faith. It’s about meeting people where they are at and taking people as you find them.
Perhaps a family just needs a bit of space to vent for a little while and that’s fine, that’s part of my role – to be a listening ear when someone needs it. I know that in my role I can give that bit of time to patients and families, which can really make a difference.
It’s really life-affirming for me to be able to support people at the Hospice.
I hope to remain a Chaplaincy volunteer at the Hospice for as long as I am able to!”
Rachel Frost – Chaplaincy Volunteer
What brought you to St Cuthbert’s Hospice?
I am training to be a Church of England Priest and part of my training involves doing placements in different environments such as parish churches, and healthcare chaplaincies. An opportunity arose for a chaplaincy placement at St Cuthbert’s, so because I feel drawn to healthcare chaplaincy I decided to come and spend time on placement here as a student Chaplain.
What have been the highlights of your experience?
It’s been really good to spend time both in Living Well and in the Inpatients Unit. I’ve had lots of conversations with both patients and staff about everyday life, existential questions, faith, and everything in between. I’ve done many sessions exploring different ways of keeping physically and psychologically well with the groups in Living Well, and I have sat with people nearing the end of their life in the Inpatients Unit. Everyday has been different which has been wonderful, and it has been a privilege to journey alongside people for a brief period of time.
What have you learnt and what will you take forward?
One of the key things which I’ve reflected on is the importance of reminding people who they are. During my time here I’ve reflected upon how when people are diagnosed and live with a life limiting condition, life can become very full with medical appointments. Significant questions and emotions about the future, purpose, and identify can come to the surface. Through conversations I’ve been aware of how important it then is to be both attentive to the loss and mixture of emotions which often come with a diagnosis. And to also be attentive to what a person can still do, and who they still are even in the midst of living with illness.
How does your role impact the experience of service users?
I hope that my role of being a Chaplain presence within the hospice has provided people with the opportunity, time, and safe space to be able to voice joys, anxieties, questions, and thoughts. I also hope that for those who identify with the Christian faith, my role has offered the opportunity for people to express thoughts and questions they have in relation to their faith, and to have someone to pray with them.
In your eyes, what makes the Hospice special?
There is such a deep sense of care for people here. It is a multifaceted level of care too – it’s care for people’s physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual needs. It’s been wonderful to experience the level of holistic care, and how the staff work together to enable people to be cared for well and to have a good quality of life.
Is there anything you would like to say, feedback or comment on?
I have been made to feel so welcome in the brief period of time that I have spent at the hospice. There is a welcomed receptivity to chaplaincy here from both patients and staff which I think makes for a very hopeful prospect for developing the presence of chaplaincy within the hospice. Thank you!
St Cuthbert’s Hospice offer Chaplaincy support for our Living Well Centre and In-Patient Unit. For more information, you can email email@example.com or call 0191 386 1170.