Sister Hannah Grier Coome, foundress of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine in 1884, identified ministry to those who were ill and distressed as a vital witness for her order. To that end, she founded a surgical hospital for women, which evolved over time into St. John’s Convalescent Hospital before becoming the St. John’s Rehabilitation Hospital we know today.
Integral to this ministry of healing was care for the soul – pastoral care, as we know it today. Like the healing ministry of nursing care, care for the soul has evolved over time as well. This evolution was captured well in St. John’s Chapel on Jan. 17 when Bishop Kevin Robertson, the area bishop of York-Scarborough, installed the Rev. Joanne Davies as the new full-time Anglican chaplain to the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, of which St. John’s Rehabilitation Hospital is a part.
Over the past several years, the Sisters and the Diocese of Toronto have collaborated in complimenting the excellent pastoral care provided by the Sisters with the provision of a priest chaplain. St. John’s Rehab is unique in that it is one of only a few remaining health care facilities which still has its founding religious order as its principle pastoral presence.
The Sisters provide a ministry of presence to those who face the challenges of rehabilitation after illness or accident. Such a journey back to health touches upon each dimension of who a person is – their physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual parts which make up a whole person.
The diocese, through the work of its Chaplaincy Committee, supports Ms. Davies as a priest chaplain who works with the Sisters, providing a full range of religious and spiritual care to the staff and patients at Sunnybrook and St. John’s.
As the Reverend Mother, Sister Elizabeth Rolfe-Thomas, shared with the congregation during her homily, the service of installation was the culmination of a deep and growing relationship with the diocese regarding the building up of an innovative ministry which combines the traditions, principles and dedication of the Sisters with Ms. Davies’s enthusiasm and creativity in attuning the spiritual care provided at St. John’s to the needs of the patient.
Such evidence of this creative thinking was in full display during the reception hosted by the Sisters as Ms. Davies padded around the refectory in her brilliant flamingo pink slippers – an obvious sign she feels wonderfully at home in this new and evolving ministry.