Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Pullman hospital chaplain’s experience has ‘broadened’ his faith
by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the Oct. 4, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)
Jim Evermann of Sacred Heart Parish, Pullman, volunteers as a hospital chaplain. (IR file photo)
Jim Evermann, 62, with spouse of 42 years, Maureen, has been a member of Pullman’s Sacred Heart Parish for more than 30 years. Evermann is a volunteer hospital chaplain and parish Eucharistic Minister.
“Father Edgar (Borchardt, pastor) approached me about five years ago and asked if I’d be interested,” Evermann said. “There was some training involved. We had to go up to Spokane and shadow a chaplain at Sacred Heart (Medical Center), and we had to do rotations down here at the Pullman Regional Hospital, before they actually put us out on our own. Our intention, ultimately, is to go through a chaplain proficiency program. Right now, that program is primarily out of the Tri-Cities area. Our intent is to bring continuing education up to Pullman Regional Hospital so we can start gaining credits now for the certification process. That’s in-process right now.”
Pullman has become popular as a retirement community, Evermann said, so there are more and more retirement facilities in the area. His ministry has expanded to include Communion services at assisted care facilities.
The experience of being a hospital chaplain has “broadened my faith, and at the same time focused or sharpened my spirituality,” he said. This ministry is not, however, been without both its particular joys and challenges. “I enjoy the camaraderie with my fellow chaplains, the nurses, nurses’ aides, and social workers. One ‘sees with new eyes,’” he said, quoting Blessed Mother Teresa, “when you are among caregivers and those individuals who need care, some physically, some emotionally, and some spiritually. In terms of the challenges, there are the times of not being able to help, so frustration can be a challenge in and by itself. I have been challenged to listen better, to become more outspoken about those not able to speak for themselves, such as long-term care patients, and to value the power of human care with someone who needs to be comforted.”
Evermann believes that for anyone a volunteer ministry, such as his role as a hospital chaplain, is “a calling.” At the same time, he finds that his own inclinations in this direction were heavily influenced by the example of his own parents. “Both of my parents were deeply involved in Hospice and outreach,” he said. “I think that when you see that as a kid and you get older you respond in similar ways. Father Edgar said, ‘Do you want to do this, Jim?’ and there was no hesitancy because I was just kind of ready for it.”
During his workday, Ever-mann is a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University, and there, too, he finds connections with his Catholic faith. “Frequently you’re dealing with people who are grieving, but they’re grieving, obviously, for their animals. There is a care and compassion that is associated with that. We’re teaching by doing. It can be an emotionally draining profession at times. They refer to it as the human/animal bond, which is quite profound, if you think about it. There are people who are home-bound, and people who are quite outgoing, and they love to have their pets. Pets become companions for them.”
Over the years, he and his family – the Evermanns raised four children – were influenced by the ways they were “embraced and nurtured through the years by other families” in their parish. “There have been some tremendous families who kind of adopted us when we first arrived,” Evermann said. “All these families mirrored what I learned growing up. So we have tried to do the same, to embrace a new family when they come into the parish. There is this nurturing process that influences people to be of service to others, in turn. Sacred Heart has been a great parish for this, it is very service oriented.”