In Romania, Hospice Casa Sperantei, we have three spiritual advisers, Cornelia in Bucharest and Father Ieremia and Gabi in Brasov.  In Serbia we have two spiritual advisers, Katarina and Jovan. Here are two examples of how counselling has helped patients in Brasov.

Maria

Maria is 45 years old and was admitted to the hospice in Brasov 5 months ago. She has breast cancer. When she came to the hospice she was struggling to deal with her surgery and follow up treatment. She had the additional anxiety of being a single parent.  To help her she spent a week in the hospice's in-patient unit and then started attending the day-care centre. 

In the day-care centre she started talking to Father Ieremia. She says that everything changed following this.  She understood that God loved her unconditionally and wanted to be her friend, rather than punish her with an illness. This helped her to overcome her depression.  Although life is still a battle for her, she now sees a light amidst the darkness.

 

Ana

Ana, is also a breast cancer patient.  She is 65 years old and held strong atheist views when she was first admitted into the Hospice. She felt a strong sense of injustice and was upset with everybody and everything. She did not want to hear about the existence of a loving God and was completely indifferent towards anything of a spiritual nature.

On her second admission, following further surgery, the cancer had spread and she was in a lonely and desperate place. This time she sought the help of Father Ieremia, and her discussions with him helped her to find a personal faith and a prayer life. Her whole outlook on life changed, her depression left her and she suddenly started to enjoy life again, even with the cancer.

She is now at peace about her future and was re-united with her grandson, who had not visited her for years. She no longer feels alone. 

A Personal reflection from Father Ieremia

"During my 12 years as chaplain/priest for Hospice Casa Sperantei in Brasov I have met many patients who impressed me greatly, so it is quite difficult to choose one in particular. 

But once during my Wednesday morning "confessional visit" to the in-patient unit, my attention was caught by a particular gentleman, Ion (not his real name). He had a certain arrogance about him, combined with the sadness of a man who once had authority and was now afflicted by the threat of serious illness. He told me coldly: "I was an ex-commander of an important military structure before 1989 and we used to have a priest at the garrison - not just any kind of priest, but a priest who was a Major!" I smiled at him and he carried on.

But later on, with the help of another priest, I managed to track down the "Major" priest and arranged for him to take a joint service at the hospice. After every service, we'd enjoy a tea or coffee together in the day room. This time was no different and for half an hour the two of them - the priest-Major and the Colonel-patient shared their thoughts like old soldiers; operations, medals, parachuting, disappeared colleagues etc, all with soldierly pride. 

The following day the patient told me that he couldn't confess to someone of a lower rank and would prefer a "civil" priest. This is how our beautiful spiritual-literary-cultural friendship started, which lasted more than a year, until God opened his fatherly arms to welcome Ion home.

Every time Ion spent time at the in-patient unit in the Hospice he wanted to confess and take communion. This was despite his background. He had had an atheist education and because of the communist constraints he did not attend Church. The Holy Spirit had opened his heart.

On Saturdays, when my work at Hospice finished, Ion's daughter brought him to the hospice to drink coffee and have a chat. He did so until he lost his faculties. On his last two Saturdays he asked the staff in the in-patient unit "Has the Priest come? Is he here?" and he would brighten up when I would pat him jokingly on the shoulder.

In his will he asked me to arrange the funeral service. This was very difficult for me to do as I had lost a friend. May he rest in peace!"