By Fr. Gabriel Achu, C.Ss.R.
When Fr. Mark asked me to write an evaluation on the just concluded CPE program, I decided to use the same method I used for the CPE program evaluation.
How do you feel about this Bereavement-focused CPE Program and how it has benefited or impaired your bereavement/spiritual care identity development?
I feel the bereavement-focused CPE program is very essential to all those going through grief, losses and in need of spiritual care. It is also essential for those who provide spiritual care in various ways. I have benefited from CPE because it opened my mind to the various ways of handling issues or dealing with my feelings. Most importantly, it helped me to be aware of my feelings towards the death of my mother and start dealing with it. This is a new stage of life and development for me.
How did it provide personal and professional learning for you?
When I started this program, I was told to set personal and professional goals. These were my goals:
To become aware and be able to demonstrate awareness of my attitudes and values in the areas of empathy, tact and patience.
Willingness to learn how to be more open minded in the way I do things. I will achieve this by being more attentive to the patient or what my team is trying to communicate to me. This skill will help me sociologically, psychologically and theologically in understanding human experiences.
I want to be competent and develop the ability to make good use of my philosophical and theological knowledge in pastoral ministry to persons, families and groups.
Discretion is important in pastoral ministry. I want to develop the use of good judgment in what I say or do because confidentiality is important. This I can achieve by learning how to be loyal to persons, families and groups, with a special sensitivity to multicultural and ecumenical issues.
Why set Goals?
I set these goals because they will give me a long-term vision in pastoral ministry. Setting of goals will make me focus my acquisition of knowledge, and help me to organize my time and my resources so that I can make the very most of my life.
By setting sharp, clearly defined goals, I will raise my self-confidence in pastoral ministry and other areas of life. When these goals are achieved, I can measure and take pride in the achievement and I will progress in what might previously have seemed a long pointless mission.
I want to set well-formed goals, small rather than many, because these goals will be important to me. I am setting goals that are described in concrete, specific and behavioural terms and this is just the beginning of a greater mission. For these goals to be realistic, I need to work hard and remain in the present always. I will try to be in control always.
Did I achieve these goals?
CPE helped me personally to be aware and in tune with myself and professionally to learn how to be loyal to persons, families and groups while being especially sensitive to multicultural and ecumenical issues. These goals are a life long process, but I have started working on them.
Were the resources available for this Bereavement-focused CPE Program adequate for your learning?
Yes the resources were very good and encouraging. The library was made available for me, the staff on my floors were very good to me, and the managers encouraged me in different ways and were patient with me. I believe more can be done in the area of CPE, because spiritual care for the patients has not been given its right place in some hospitals.
During the CPE program, there were some program resources that were most helpful for my learning and some were least helpful to me. The most helpful resources were:
Inter-Personal Relationship (IPR) – IPR is a time of checking my relationship with my colleagues, expressing my opinion, making my feelings known, being corrected, learning from my colleagues and they learning from me. IPR, in my opinion, is a good way to know if a group is healthy or not.
Verbatim – I have never written down my encounter with any patient, but that was what verbatim did for me. In writing my Verbatim, I became more reflective and analytical of my interventions with patients and a conscious awareness of my feelings.
Didactic – The various didactics I experienced were inspirational and knowledgeable. I also had the opportunity of sharing the gift of Enneagram with my colleagues and supervisors.
Interventions with Patients – As a chaplain, I performed my duty more ritualistically, but CPE made me to be conscious, aware, tactful and patient when dealing with patients. CPE made me to be empathetic, that is, being able to understand another person’s feelings, situation, and motives. In some of my interventions, I was able to guide the patients to a deeper part of their spiritual being.
The program resources that were least helpful for my learning were:
Rounds – Each of us were placed on different units. I was stationed at the Health Sciences (HSC). I was on 4NA and the NICU. I attended rounds on these units but noticed so quickly that something important was missing. The fourth aspect of holistic healing (which is Spiritual Care) was missing. Spiritual Care was not really given its place at rounds. The rounds need to be better coordinated to notice and include spiritual care givers as part of the team.
Charting – This was an important part of the CPE and working at the units. Charting helps the rest of the team members to know the situation of patients. During this time of CPE, it was a big challenge for the rest of the team to see reasons why a bereavement intern will write on the chart. This goes back to my point of spiritual care not being given the right position in holistic healing.
How did you feel you have grown personally and professionally through this learning experience?
I have grown through CPE because I was able to demonstrate awareness of my attitudes and values in areas like empathy, tact and patience. I felt my learning goals for this program were attained. I attained my goals because I became more aware of myself and people around me. For example, I became aware of my feelings towards the death of my mother. I attained my goal of willingness to learn how to be more open minded in the way I do things and deal with people.
CPE is very important because it cuts across various fields of learning and personal development. I recommend it in every level of our lives especially in community and parish lives. On the level of community, the IPR like community meetings are good. It helps brothers come to know and understand the reality of community life. On the level of the parish, CPE needs to be brought to the awareness of everyone especially those going through grief, losses, death and bereavement. The bereavement team needs to be equipped with the right tools in serving the parishioners.
I recommend workshops or seminars to parishioners who are going through different kinds of grief and losses. Some do not know how or what to do to deal with losses. These workshops can help such people. If any parish needs a workshop or seminar for those going through grief or losses of any kind, I recommend Rev. Peter Barnes. This is his contact information: Peter Barnes, D.Min. CCC, Regional Bereavement Coordinator, Palliative Care, Rehab & Continuing Care Program, Eastern Health, Rm. 361, Southcott Hall, 100 Forest Rd., St. John’s, NL, A1A 1E5, T: 709-777-2167. F: 709-777-8970.
How do you see yourself building upon this learning experience?
From my new appointment as part of the mission team, I will keep spreading the knowledge of CPE and try to see how it can be introduced to the Vice Province of Nigeria especially in our formation houses. It will also be an opportunity for me to be able to practice all I have learnt everywhere I go to preach missions.
Would you take another Bereavement-focused CPE Program?
Yes I will surely do so in the future and will recommend it anywhere I go.