More options offered for chaplaincy students
Extended program allows working students to participate part-time
By Joanne Flemming
You feel God is calling you to be a chaplain, but you also feel
you can't quit your job to enter training. How do you deal with
It's one many chaplaincy students entering traditional Clinical
Pastoral Education (CPE) programs face, agreed Sr. Geraldine
Krautkramer of Green Bay. However, the Green Bay Diocese now has
an alternative, an extended CPE program.
Students participate, part-time, to complete the required 400
hours training for each unit over several months' time, rather
than in a three-month period as they would in a full-time
program. That allows them to continue working part-time.
Sr. Krautkramer said the extended program usually runs from
September to April, but earlier this year the five students tried
meeting from February to June or for about 23 hours per week.
These hours included eight of classes and discussion and 15 of
clinical experiences in a hospital, nursing home or hospice
The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education determines how
CPE courses are taught nationally. National chaplaincy
organizations require chaplains to complete four CPE units for
Three of the five students in the February to June program were
in the first CPE unit. The other two - Bill Serdahely and Lenore
Domers-Merrill - are in the third unit. They want to complete the
requirements for certification. Domers-Merrill belongs to St.
Pius X Parish, Appleton; Serdahely belongs to Appleton's
Unitarian Church. Both are already working as chaplains.
Sr. Krautkramer defines a chaplain as "a skilled person who is
able to facilitate for another person the experience of God's
presence, love and power." That person has "the ability to know
when and how to facilitate this experience through sacrament,
word and prayer and through the gift of relationship and
In the past, she said, chaplains have mostly been seminarians,
ordained clergy and members of religious orders, but now they are
increasingly lay person. They work in hospitals, nursing homes,
prisons and other agencies.
Sr. Krautkramer and Domers-Merrill said some students going to
the first CPE unit do not have definite goals to become
"A unit is more of a learning about one's self," Domers-Merrill
said. "A student looks to him or herself and asks, 'What am I
doing? What am I? Where am I? What is my spirituality? How do I
relate to others?' "
The three first-unit students concurred. They are Denise Flynn of
Holy Family Parish in Marinette, Joanne Ehrhardt of St. Jude
Parish, Green Bay, and Molly McGinnis of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Parish, also in Green Bay.
Flynn, who has a nursing background, said she is "listening to
God's leading." She thought she might use her chaplaincy training
at the parish level.
McGinnis said she believes God is calling her to "a different
type of ministry" than the job she has at Humana processing
medical plans. There is "something more inside, something deeper
of love," she said.
She said she has felt that call for a long time. "This is where
God wants me, in this ministry, in a pastoral role, in some type
of service to others."
The eight hours of class were held each Tuesday at St. Francis
Convent at Bay Settlement. Sr. Krautkramer and others taught
seminars and the students discussed their clinical experiences
and received feedback.
No names used
Sr. Krautkramer explained that although they were discussing
actual cases, no patients' names were used. Strict
confidentiality was observed.
Clinicals were served at St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay, Theda
Clark Hospital in Neenah, St. Paul's Home in Kaukauna and with
ThedaCare Hospice based in Appleton.
Sr. Krautkramer said the students scheduled the hours they worked
with their CPE supervisors at each facility and that each student
was given a variety of patients and range of experiences.
Flynn and Ehrhardt said they worked in all departments at St.
Vincent and St. Mary's Hospitals - rehabilitation, obstetrics,
intensive care, surgery and emergency - with patients, their
families and staff. Ehrhardt said they "bridged the gap between
patients and their pastors."
With the help of staff, they learned to be part of an
interdisciplinary team. They had to document their work like
regular chaplains do, the students said.
Domers-Merrill and Sr. Krautkramer noted that each videotaped a
memorial service prepared and conducted for patients they had
lost. These were critiqued during the Tuesday meetings.
McGinnis said her clinical was especially memorable because she
worked on the 18-bed Alzheimer's unit at St. Paul's Home. It was
a great challenge, she said, because the residents lived "in the
past and the present. They had no future."
Center of their lives
She learned that "their religion is the center of their lives. No
matter how confused they are, they still seem to hold on to that,
to their faith in God, their religion and their prayers. God is
still at the very center of their hearts. No matter how confused
they are, they still long for the spiritual."
Besides classroom studies and clinicals, the students had outside
reading. Some found they had difficulties balancing the program
with work, family and time for themselves, but felt the
experience was worthwhile.
As McGinnis said, "It has been an enormous growth experience in
areas of providing comfort, a listening ear, prayer and
sacraments for those in need."
More information on the Green Bay/Fox Valley CPE program is
available from Sr. Krautkramer at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish,
2771 Oakwood Dr., Green Bay 54304. Her e-mail is
[email protected]; her phone is (920) 499-1546.