By: Eamonn O Brien SSC
On behalf of UK-based Cultural Exchange with China, I attended the graduation from the 10-week Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Module at the YiShi Catholic Social Service Centre of China’s Tianjin Diocese on 26 May. CPE is the primary method of training hospital and hospice chaplains and spiritual care providers.
Video of the graduation celebration can be viewed here:
This was the 10th CPE event which the China Formation Committee of the Society of St Columban has sponsored. There were four 10-week programmes for 10 participants in mainland China, and six 10-week programmes for three - five participants at The Cardinal Tien Hospital in Taipei.
The Tianjin graduation marked a significant breakthrough. Working with the very special support of the CPE supervisor from the Tien Hospital, Tapei, Sr Joanna Chang, the Tianjin 10-week graduation is the first where we have given certificates from the National Association Office in Taiwan. Also, the YiShi Catholic Social Service Centre of Tianjin Diocese has been designated as an authorised training centre for CPE in China by Taiwan.
Sr Joanna has also been working on getting a CPE graduate 'en route' to being qualified as a CPE supervisor in China. A sister has been selected and will do an MA in psychology in China. An MA in psychology, theology or spirituality, as well as the necessary CPE training units, are required to become a trained supervisor from the Taipei National Centre. One of our graduates in Ireland has or is acquiring an MA and has done a number of CPE units and might become involved.
There were two priests, one deacon and seven religious sisters on the 10- week programme. One of the sisters is a trained doctor, opening the way to the medical world here for CPE.
Another welcome development was that the pastoral placements were carried out in a government hospital of 2,700 beds, ending the problem we had with the CPE programmes where the Catholic hospital patients were so few that visitation was very awkward and difficult. The director of this hospital, who is not a Catholic, was most accommodating: welcoming the work the CPE students were doing for the patients, giving them special uniforms, and attending the final Mass and graduation. The next group will be welcome too. By the time of that next group the Tianjin Catholic Social Service Centre hopes to have opened an 800-bed Catholic hospital.
All the feedback was very good. Sr Joanna and the local manager, daughter of Charity Sr Yang Hong, and Fr Lin worked very hard on the project, and Sr Joanna hopes to be back from Taipei for the next CPE programme in Tianjin towards the end of the year.
Fr Eamonn O’ Brien is the Columban Director of Cultural Exchange with China. The Columbans were originally known as the Maynooth Mission to China and will soon be celebrating their centenary.