Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Symbols of faith staying at hospital

St. Boniface officials, WRHA dismiss removal rumours

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St. Boniface Hospital is rooted in Catholic tradition but has provisions for services of other faiths and traditions, officials say.

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St. Boniface Hospital is rooted in Catholic tradition but has provisions for services of other faiths and traditions, officials say. Photo Store

Religious symbols will remain in the century-old chapel at the St. Boniface Hospital, despite recent rumours to the contrary.

St. Boniface Hospital, the Archdiocese of Saint-Boniface and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said they have all responded to emails and phone calls in recent weeks regarding rumours the large crucifix on the chapel wall above the altar and the tabernacle (the cabinet containing the Holy Communion) were to be removed.

According to the rumours, the chapel would become a non-denominational space.

"It's not true," said Winnipeg Regional Health Authority spokeswoman Heidi Graham.

Helene Vrignon, senior corporate affairs and communications officer for St. Boniface Hospital, also quashed the rumours.

"Please be assured St. Boniface Hospital has no plans to change anything in its chapel and will not be removing the crucifix or other symbols of the Catholic faith," Vrignon said in a telephone interview.

She said the St. Boniface Hospital chapel will remain true to its Catholic roots.

"We have no interest in changing anything. We don't know how this got started," Vrignon said.

She said St. Boniface Hospital, like all other hospitals in Winnipeg, has provisions for spiritual health services for other religions and cultures.

St. Boniface has its historic Christian chapel and a Muslim prayer room both in the C wing of the second floor of the hospital.

She said while St. Boniface Hospital has "faith-specific services" for Roman Catholics, there is "a team of chaplains" available to assist in obtaining services needed for other faiths or traditions.

At Seven Oaks General Hospital, the sanctuary area is open to people of all faiths for prayer and meditation. It includes a Muslim prayer corner and smudging for First Nations people.

Adele Compton, the WRHA's regional director of spiritual health services, said spiritual health services are part of the WRHA's strategic health care plan called Health and the Human Spirit, which began in September 2012.

She said there were "dozens of options of spiritualities that people name as support" in the plan. All hospitals have "spiritual health specialists," sometimes still known as chaplains.

"It's far beyond just Christian. It's a whole continuum of backgrounds that help people make meaning out of their lives and keep themselves strong in the face of what changes and what is uncertain," Compton said.

But, as in the case of St. Boniface, there is still room to maintain established tradition.

"We're not negating any tradition. We're just recognizing we're coming from a background and experience where in many of our facilities traditionally, the Christian experience maybe got lifted up with more space or recognition," Compton said.

"But today, we recognize we have so many different backgrounds. We're trying to make the experience of being in hospital respect other spiritualities as well, so that whoever comes in can feel that there is a space where they can care for that part of their being."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 9, 2013 A6

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