My CPE Ministry Experience - Saint John's Seminary
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My CPE Ministry Experience

July 20, 2022

By: Mr. David Cataline
Seminarian, Diocese of Rochester


“Thank you! I just want to tell you; just your presence here has brought me peace and calm.” These words will remain with me for a long time. This was said to me after one of my visits to a patient who had just received some bad news. I came to his room and listened to him. I offered some words of encouragement and prayed with him. The patient told me he felt that calmness the moment I entered. I reflect on that moment each time I visit with a patient and hope that my presence brings them a sense of peace and calm.

I am currently assigned to Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) this summer in my home Diocese of Rochester, NY. This program is a requirement of our Diocese for all seminarians. I am working at Strong Memorial Hospital as a Chaplain intern. The program’s purpose is to gain an in-depth understanding of the ministerial needs within a hospital setting.

My overall work is visiting with patients and providing for their spiritual needs. I minister to patients across the religious spectrum, not just to Catholics. Understanding the views and prayers of another faith, especially those outside Christianity, can be challenging, but there have been many learning opportunities from these encounters. We spend three days of the week in “curriculum,” learning about certain aspects of hospital ministry, from dealing with ethical issues to understanding grief. Another part of this assignment is working as the “on-call chaplain.” As the on-call chaplain, I stay at the hospital overnight and it requires me to attend to emergencies, specifically traumas, as they come in, to be the spiritual presence at that moment for the patient, families and staff.

Working in the number one trauma center in the area each day provides both opportunities and challenges. No day is the same as the previous. For example, during one shift, in less than an hour, I had performed an emergency baptism on a baby who was about to undergo surgery and then went to pray with a family of a patient who was actively dying. There have been times when I have been able to bring Holy Communion to patients. To offer this sacrament, for me, is the pinnacle of ministry. Some patients have not received the Eucharist in a long time due to COVID restrictions and hospital limitations to visitors, and they are appreciative of this. All of these experiences have shown me how my ministry, please God, a future priest, will affect many people.

My vocation to the priesthood has been affirmed with each encounter, whether with patients, family, or staff. To feel the presence of the Holy Spirit working in these encounters brings me a fulfilling sense of joy. After completing the CPE program, I will begin my Pastoral Year, where I will serve the people of Our Mother of Sorrows and Holy Cross Parishes in Rochester.

I look forward to the year ahead that offers many opportunities to grow in my vocation.