Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Deacon Cary Heth is Hospice Volunteer Chaplain of the Year

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Dec. 1, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

Deacon Cary HethDeacon Cary Heth (IR photo from Hospice of Spokane)

Hospice of Spokane recently honored Deacon Cary Heth with its Volunteer Chaplain of the Year award for 2005.

This is the second year in a row that a Spokane Diocese deacon has been so honored. Last year’s award was given to Deacon Gonzalo “Chalo” Martínez, who also ministers at St. Joseph Parish, Spokane, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Hospice of Spokane provides in-home care and medical support for the terminally ill and their families. It also provides bereavement services, and sponsors a children’s grief program.

Deacon Heth, who serves St. Mary Parish in Spokane Valley, has been volunteering as a Hospice chaplain since 1999.

“In the six years since Cary began volunteering his time as a chaplain, he has touched hundreds of lives,” said Gina Drummond, Hospice of Spokane’s CEO. “Thanks to his presence and commitment, families around the area have been able to journey to death with greater grace and peace of mind.”

His own personal experience observing Hospice care touched him deeply, he said. “There was a caring, and a commitment, in the organization,” he said. A classmate in deacon formation convinced him to consider chaplaincy.

“It’s a ministry that I would not have chosen when I was ordained, but I got involved in it and now it’s a ministry that has a priority in my life,” he said. “I have never met a Hospice client who was not glad to have me there. Listening is the key to this ministry. I’ve observed them in the different stages of their journey, and they’re most gracious, but they are also brave. Most of them are full of an anxious hope to get to the other side to meet God face to face, and that makes me humble because I’m not sure that I have that kind of faith.

“I’m not there to fix anything,” he said. “I’m there to listen, to support.” Sometimes, though not always, that means prayer; not only with the patient, but comforting the family, too. That means respecting their wishes and their religious viewpoints, whatever those might be. As a hospice chaplain, his role is to “accept them where they are, and journey with them if they want me to be there.” Sometimes that includes conducting the funeral service for the Hospice client he has been comforting.

He called the award “a complete surprise,” as well as “humbling.”

Deacon Heth was ordained to the diaconate in 1999. He is a retired teacher, former community college administrator, and textbook author. He earned a graduate degree in pastoral ministry at Gonzaga University.

He is one of approximately 20 volunteer chaplains who serve with Hospice.

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