Catholic nurses often only spiritual connection to hospitalized patients

By Tom Tracy Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Gregory A. ShemitzA personal care assistant has her hands anointed May 7, 2018, by Father Corneille Boyeye, chaplain at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, N.Y., during the hospital’s National Nurses Week observance. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Catholics nurses are increasingly filling the spiritual void for patients in their care as hospitals restrict visits from pastoral ministers.

(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CNS) — A tightening of some hospital visitor restrictions on religious ministers and patient family members has begun as the coronavirus pandemic ramps up around the U.S.

“It has been about two weeks — it started out with a limit on the times ministers or family members could come in, then a week later they completely stopped it,” said Maria Arvonio, a night-shift nursing supervisor for a large community hospital near Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and the lower Northeastern regional director of the Chicago-based National Association of Catholic Nurses.

Catholic nurses, Arvonio noted, are now often the only spiritual connection for those in their care.

“The patients can make phone calls, but eucharistic ministers, volunteers and family are not allowed to visit at this time, so Catholic nurses are the only Catholic lifeline to their spirituality,” Arvonio said, adding that historically the church has encouraged strong collegial associations of Catholic nurses.