Hospital pastoral care is among the numerous ministries in which the Norbertines of Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey serve. Father Thomas Pulickal, O. Praem. and Father Robert Campbell, O. Praem. minister, or have ministered, to patients in five different hospitals in the Albuquerque area.
Fr. Thomas considers it a blessing to have served at the downtown Presbyterian Hospital. The hospital administration gives him full support and assistance and is cooperative and understanding with regard to this ministry. The love and concern of the nurses, staff, maintenance people, and housekeepers are all very much appreciated.
He would start his ministry every day at 9:00 a.m. and finishes at 5:00 p.m. His primary ministry was visiting patients who are in emergency situations and conferring on them the sacrament of the sick or last rites and other prayers as they require. Fr. Thomas would take his time to listen to the patients and gives them support and encouragement for their spiritual, mental, and physical needs. Those expressing a desire to confess, were offered that sacrament before the administration of the Anointing of the Sick. Fr. Thomas stressed the importance of receiving Holy Communion and would give it to patents expressing a willingness to receive it. Responding to emergency calls from other chaplains whose patients request a Catholic priest was another important role he fills.
On Sunday and Monday, he celebrated Mass in the Chapel, and he would occasionally hear confessions of those attending Mass. Fr. Thomas says, “it is a nice and fruitful experience to give pastoral care in the hospital amidst all the staff and patients.”
Fr. Bob has been blessed with pastoral care for three hospitals in Rio Rancho: Presbyterian Rust Medical Center, University of New Mexico Sandoval Regional Medical Center, and Lovelace Westside Hospital. He starts his day at Rust, as this is the largest of the three and has a major cancer center, where he visits Catholic patients on the cancer unit first. These are patients the he gets to know the best. Then it is off to the intensive care unit and the rest of the units where patients have requested a priest. Fr. Bob works in conjunction with staff chaplains at all three hospitals, tending to the sick and checking in with the nurses and medical staff to see how they are doing.
Being a bit of an old time circuit rider roving from one hospital to the next, he celebrates Mass in each hospital once per week. Of this ministry, Fr. Bob said “I love my ministry! I meet patients who tell me their stories and share their struggles. I celebrate healing and grieve with families whose loved one is dying. Death for me is a sacred moment charged with grace and love. I simply acknowledge the sacredness of the moment and say Amen. One time I baptized an adult patient, confirmed him and celebrated the sacrament of marriage to his soul mate all in one continuous ritual!”
Many people are hesitant to see a Catholic chaplain because they feel sinful or haven’t been to church. To them Fr. Bob is especially gentle and welcoming, because he loves serving as a compassionate good listener. Fr. Bob sums up his passion for this work by saying “I thank God for my ministry every day.”