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Bringing Christ’s Compassion to the Suffering

Elaine Babbish is a lay chaplain at Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital — a role she calls a “sacred honor”

by Editorial Team

Even before discovering what Elaine Babbish describes as her part in the “healing mission of Christ” as a lay chaplain at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, she was deeply immersed in a life path of treating and caring for the sick. Born and raised in metro Detroit, Elaine studied nursing at Wayne State University before working in home care and as a home hospice nurse in Oakland County for almost thirty years. She also worked at the Mother and Unborn Baby Care Center in Southfield doing ultrasounds for couples facing unplanned pregnancies.  

The demand for Elaine’s gifts of compassion and nurturing were not just called for in her professional life, they were crucial in her personal life as well. As a young woman, Elaine became her mother’s guardian when was very sick, often sitting with her through multiple hospitalizations. “One time in particular I was sitting with her in the hospital and making a rosary by tying knots in a long colored chord,” remembers Elaine, “A chaplain noticed me praying and working on the rosary. He asked what I was doing and he was compassionate and peaceful in his conversational care. His presence validated my care in a way that was helpful for me. I believe much of my compassion I learned was through my mother’s suffering. It took me a very long time to discover that gift.” 

In 2006, Elaine became a volunteer for Michigan Catholic Radio and had the opportunity to interview various Catholic ministries in the Archdiocese of Detroit including churches, hospitals, schools, and seminaries. “I had the opportunity to host Msgr. Lajiness, Msgr. Trapp, and Bishop Flores, which was very exciting,” remembers Elaine, “Through my many interviews, my path not only became visible but I was being invited to study at Sacred Heart Seminary as a means of going into lay chaplaincy.” 

by Editorial Team

In 2009, Elaine started studying for her Master’s Degree in Theology and Pastoral Studies at Sacred Heart where she found her scholarly work strengthened her spiritual life. “Sacred Heart helped deepen my faith and interior life so that I am able to draw from God’s life within me to care for others,” says Elaine, “All the formation I had at SHMS is important in chaplaincy. From writing scholarly papers to developing an understanding of how people come to faith, may leave their faith, and/or return through various life challenges. Sacramental knowledge is essential especially since Vatican II opened doors to lay ministry.” At Sacred Heart, Elaine took Sacred Scripture, Ethics, Philosophy, Pastoral Care, and spirituality classes. In addition to these courses, Elaine benefited from teachings about ecumenical ministry, something that is integral to hospital ministry.  

After graduating, Elaine started working as a lay chaplain at Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital where she offers the Eucharist as well as spiritual solace and companionship to the sick or dying, a role she calls a “sacred honor.”  

“So many teachings at seminary affect my everyday spiritual care,” explains Elaine, “For example, in Sacramental Theology, I learned an assessment process of seeking to understand a patient’s connectedness to themselves, others, and God. This helps me to see where strengths and weaknesses are within someone. It also starts to reveal a personal story or narrative so that where one may be spiritually suffering or wounded is revealed and can be addressed for healing along with their body.” 

Never has Elaine’s work seemed so imperative as it has in the last couple of years during the pandemic. As she overcame the hurdles of virtual chaplaincy and connecting with staff when all she could see were their eyes due to PPE, she held strong to the deep interior strength sowed in her at Sacred Heart. “I needed the depth of faith and expanded compassion to lean on Christ in the shadow of the pandemic,” remembers Elaine.

Editorial Team

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Sacred Heart Major Seminary is a Christ-centered Catholic community of faith and higher learning committed to forming leaders who will proclaim the good news of Christ to the people of our time. As a leading center of the New Evangelization, Sacred Heart serves the needs of the Archdiocese of Detroit and contributes to the mission of the universal Church.