St. Cloud Hospital’s Spiritual Care Department to be honored for ministry of compassion

For their ministry of compassion, the Spiritual Care Department of the St. Cloud Hospital will receive the 2020 ThrowFire Award.

Members of the spiritual care team at St. Cloud Hospital have gone above and beyond to care for patients and their families during the coronavirus pandemic. Not only have they put in long hours, but they have made sacrifices in their personal lives to help others coping with the virus.

Now they’re being recognized for their efforts. They will be honored by Gabriel Media/K-YES Radio with the annual Andy Hilger Throw Fire Award during a virtual banquet Oct. 22.

“The award is given to someone who has worked with extraordinary dedication to bring the Good News and hope of Christ to all souls,” said Deb Huschle, Gabriel Media general manager. “These people exemplify the virtues of charity, generosity, hope, apostolic zeal and love for the truth.”

Huschle recalled seeing a story in May on The Central Minnesota Catholic website about the challenges the chaplains were facing with COVID-19.

Members of the spiritual care team at St. Cloud Hospital (photo courtesy of Bret Reuter)

“From wearing all the protective gear, to being the go-between from patients in the hospital to family members outside the hospital, to actually being separated from their own loved ones — we felt like we were seeing exactly what the Hilger family intended when they created the Andy Hilger Throw Fire Award,” she said.

The chaplains’ work at St. Cloud Hospital is driven by the example set by the Benedictine sisters who founded it, said Bret Reuter, director of mission and spiritual care at the hospital.

“The example of those Benedictine sisters whose tenacity, commitment, compassion and sacrifice led St. Cloud Hospital through events like the flu [pandemic] of 1918, the Great Depression, the polio epidemic and many other challenges, is needed now more than ever,” Reuter said. “Our Spiritual Care Department and all our health care colleagues rely on the strength and grace of the Holy Spirit to guide us, especially at a time like this.”

Visitation restrictions have limited the in-person support that patients would normally receive at the hospital. Families must connect by other means, and chaplains often play a vital role in not only helping families stay in touch by phone and online, but also by providing a caring and supportive presence for the patient when their families can’t be with them.

“I recall a patient dying on the COVID unit and one of our chaplains talking on the phone to the family describing to them the surroundings, the demeanor of their loved one, and offering prayerful loving support to the patient and the family in real time,” Reuter said. “That’s the reality of our current circumstances.”

“These restrictions can be difficult on both patients/ families and staff as we all want to be able to surround our patients with the support they need,” said chaplain Anita Fischer.

Father Mark Stang, one of the hospital’s chaplains, experiences firsthand how the virus affects people physically, mentally and emotionally and sees the frustrations many people have with safety restrictions and precautions. He views COVID-19 as a dark cloud but has hope that the situation will get better.

“As we move into the future, I believe the COVID cloud will lift more and more as we come to understand how to live as best we can with this virus,” he said.

Father Stang is thankful for the support the chaplains and medical staff have been getting through the prayers of the community.

“I feel so blessed to be able to be present to those who suffer,” he said. “I am grateful for the prayer support. I know many people are praying for us.”

Health care workers and providers have been under immense stress during this pandemic, and chaplains have made a special effort to check in with hospital staff and offer support for them as well, Reuter said.

“We have been encouraging the hospital staff to be aware of how the stress is affecting them and their families,” Father Stang said.

Staff have concerns about the workload and keeping patients safe as well as challenges at home, especially those with children in school, he said.

“We all continue to have the usual stresses in life, which seem to be amplified during pandemic times,” Fischer said. “It is harder to be resilient when we don’t know when the end of this pandemic will be and what that will look like.”

The added stress creates additional burdens to carry while hospital staff are working to care for others, she said.

“The compassionate presence of our chaplains is needed now more than ever, not just for our patients and families, but the staff, too,” Reuter said.

It is for this compassionate presence and their personal sacrifices that Gabriel Media wanted to honor the department with the Throw Fire Award.

“Through a terrible pandemic, the chaplains at the St. Cloud Hospital are doing the work of Jesus,” Huschle said.

“To be acknowledged for spreading God’s love and care to God’s people is certainly a great honor,” Fischer said. “At the same time, it is humbling as we experience the tireless work of the medical staff and know that they, too, bring God’s healing love and presence in unique ways.”

Reuter will accept the award on behalf of the department during the K-YES Benefit Banquet, which will be a virtual event this year. (See below for information.)

“Our St. Cloud Hospital Spiritual Care Department is honored to be the 2020 recipient of the Throw Fire award,” Reuter said. “As one small example of Gods’ loving action in the world, we join all our hospital colleagues in our effort to bring God’s healing presence to all those we serve.”



7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22

To participate, visit and click on the virtual banquet page to submit your email information. The keynote speaker will be Patrick Madrid, author and host of the daily “Patrick Madrid Show” on Relevant Radio.

Author: Dianne Towalski

Dianne Towalski is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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