In the last five years the Czech Republic has been experiencing a dynamic advancement of spiritual care in medical institutions. Earlier in 2006 churches concluded a contract of ecumenical cooperation in this field. Immediately in the next year an educational course for hospital chaplains was held and in the academic year 2007/2008 at a Protestant Theological Faculty it was attended by 19 chaplains from various churches. After completing the course, the participants agreed they would like to continue in meeting and support each other in the hospital service. From the initiative of the very chaplains regular work meetings have been held at Sisters of Mercy of St Borromeo in Prague since November 2008. These meetings (once in 2 months) are open to other chaplains and those interested in hospital spiritual service.
At the beginning, informal meetings led to a decision to establish ecumenical association of hospital chaplains, which would associate us and support us in our service. The Association of Hospital Chaplains was solemnly established on 22 October 2011 with the presence of church representatives, deputies of other chaplain associations and our foreign guest Dany Kalniny-Zake. We were very truly heartened by a letter from a coordinator of European net Anne Vandenhoeck which we heard from a Czech translation.
Chaplain service in hospitals has been tried in the world and has its tradition
Since the beginning, our service has been following modern spiritual service in hospitals, the grounds of which were established in the USA in the 20’s of the 20th century by C. Cabot, Anton Boisen and others. It was Boisen’s way of education which other chaplains started to follow and from which educational system of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) developed. These courses have been attended by several of our colleagues, many others received experiences during fellowships in European countries. Our chaplain service is provided in the European context of European Network of Health Care Chaplaincy.
Chaplain service is gradually gaining support in Czech hospitals
In the beginning there was some scepticism towards chaplain service but it is disappearing step by step.
We need to distinguish between two forms of spiritual care in hospitals.
Spiritual care is provided by the clergy from parishes from the vicinity of hospitals – they are called when a patient asks. These do not usually have particular education in hospital chaplaincy and they take care of the faithful of their church.
Spiritual care is provided by professional hospital chaplains who are in employees’ relation of various types with the hospital. They meet the qualification conditions given by ecumenical agreements, they are bound by the ethical code and actively visit all patients who want this visit whether they do or do not profess any kind of faith. Their service is meant not only to patients as such but also to their families and close friends as well as the staff who take care of the patients.
With the view of coordination, enlightenment, education and care of chaplains working in hospitals the Association of Hospital chaplains (ANK) was established in May 2011.