From The Queens Chronicle comes this personal glimpse into the life of a hospital chaplain today, featuring my friend the Rev. Radu Titonea, a Romanian Catholic priest now serving on the frontlines of this battle:
“The hospital definitely changed. It’s a crisis — we try to be as focused as possible on the crisis so we can face it with success, which means having as many people as healthy as possible after this, but everything is disrupted … When you walk the hallway you notice the change.”
This April marks the Rev. Radu Titonea’s 10th year as hospital chaplain of Northwell Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Medical Center. Rather than celebrating with a party or a cake, Titonea will mark the anniversary by visiting countless COVID-19 patients as one of the hospital’s 24/7 on-call frontline personnel.
“If a family member or a patient wants me there I will be there, even though I have to be cautious … Right now I’m trying to be available,” said Titonea.
Donning the same personal protective equipment as his medical professional colleagues, Titonea has expanded his responsibilities as chaplain to inspire confidence and bring comfort where he can to the intensive care unit patients.
“Before the outbreak, I always tried to focus on three avenues,” he continued. “First is the patients, second is the families of the patient and third is the staff. Right now my focus is mostly the patients because we don’t have families present.”
Titonea’s job requires him to be available for patients’ spiritual needs, but he is mainly concerned with bringing comfort to patients of every background. Despite being a Catholic priest, Titonea is willing to visit every patient regardless of varying, or lack of, faith. “The patient has no religion? I’ll do it no problem. We try to serve everybody in the hospital; not only Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, but everybody who is here.” In times outside the pandemic, community imams and rabbis would normally visit patients of their respective religions, but in order to decrease exposure they are restricted from entering the hospital. Instead, Titonea is equipped with an iPad so he can arrange Skype calls with patients and their religious leaders at their request.
Titonea’s focus on patients as his main responsibility has not changed, but he has increased his attention toward comforting the hospital staff, who are “absolutely stressed.” According to the chaplain, the combined extra long hours, large number of patients and fear of catching the virus themselves has caused frontline workers to feel “overwhelmed,” a feeling he shares with the workers.
Please pray for him and all the chaplains serving in this pandemic.