The chaplains at Franciscan Alliance are using technology to offer spiritual guidance.
The hospital system launched its E-Chaplaincy program Oct. 21 as part of Pastoral Care Week and already has fielded several requests through the website.
“This program is another way to meet patients' needs and empower people,” said the Rev. Anthony Janik, spiritual care services director at Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point, who helped develop the program.
“We can pray for people and help them get the help they might need.”
There are believed to be only three other similar electronic chaplaincy programs in the country, in New York, St. Louis and LaGrange, Ill., Janik said.
Anyone who wishes to contact a chaplain via email can go through any of the websites of Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point, Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Michigan City, Franciscan St. Margaret Health- Dyer and Hammond and Franciscan Healthcare-Munster.
The link can be found by clicking on “Patients and visitors” and then on “e-chaplaincy,” which is on the left side of the page.
All submitted requests will be answered within 24 hours, Janik said. The responses will be either by email or by phone, based on what is requested.
The requests are handled by the hospital’s chaplain staff, which is trained to respond to crisis and spiritual needs. The chaplain staff represents a variety of faiths, from Roman Catholic to Evangelical and Church of God.
The chaplains can respond to the requests, but also refer people to the services they might need.
“We can’t necessarily solve deep, complicated problems, but we can help them find the resources,” he said. “A lot of people just need someone to listen to them.”
Franciscan St. Margaret Health-Dyer chaplain Augustine Duru said the program provides greater outreach into the community.
“Health care is changing, and we want to find alternative ways to reach out to people,” he said. “This is another tool we can use to reach out and engage with people.”
Duru said the anonymity might appeal to people who are struggling with issues and aren’t ready to meet with someone face to face.
“We want to be able to extend pastoral care to all faiths and traditions, and meet people where they are,” he said. “This gives us flexibility we haven’t had in the past.”
Janik said literature about the program will be distributed through the hospital’s network of doctors and outpatient programs, and he hopes doctors and nurses will begin referring patients to the service.
Janik said the service is appealing to anyone going through personal struggles.
“It’s good for someone who is struggling at life, who is depressed or ill, or who is having a crisis of faith. It’s good for someone facing a tragedy or who lost a loved one,” he said. “There are a whole lot of people who could use our services.”