Providing healing and promoting hope as a pediatric chaplain

Providing healing and promoting hope as a pediatric chaplain

When we are called to pray, we come. In end of life moments, we are there. But as chaplains, we do so much more.

As chaplains, we have specialized training and rigorous educational degree programs that give us the tools to not only provide spiritual care but also emotional, mental and social support.

My role as a pediatric chaplain and bereavement coordinator at Advocate Children’s Hospital allows me to continue the care of a child’s interdisciplinary team and provide an extra layer of importance and value to their stay with us. Our patients need to know they are seen, valued, loved and in a healing environment. Providing that healing and promoting hope is foundational to my plan of care.

Some days, I provide support to patients and families through conversation and prayer. On other days we’re drawing, coloring or finding other ways to help children be children while in the hospital environment. Sometimes I visit new patients. Other times, I reconnect with a family who has spent a bit of time with us.

My path to chaplaincy wasn’t easy. I can recall times in my life when I dealt with sexism and racism because of assumptions about my economic and educational status. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I am reminded of the quote by the prolific poet and professor, Bell Hooks: “Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power – not because they don’t see it, but because they don’t want it to exist.”

The reality is, like many other Black women in the world and in the field of chaplaincy, our lived experiences, extensive academic backgrounds and knowledge of being seen at times as “different” has propelled our understanding of caring for all no matter race, gender or creed.

As an African American woman with a terminal degree, it is critical that I not only share my journey with others but also reach out a hand to those who are coming behind me. My mother, DaNita, grandmothers Doris and Anna, and great grandmother Marie are all inspirations to my life’s work. As leaders, educators and women of deep faith, they not only encouraged me but supported me with their collective love and prayers. Although my grandmothers are no longer here on this earth, their pouring of strong faith, greatness and community involvement was passed down to me.

My mother and father always encouraged me to be the best “me.” I encourage you to show up in all spaces and places as your full self. Nothing more. Nothing less. You are not only a provider and promoter of healing and hope, but a light of courage and creativity that the world needs to see. Hone the greatness within you. And always remember to reach your hand back to help others along their own journey.

Rev. Dr. Christal Bell is a pediatric staff chaplain and bereavement coordinator at Advocate Children’s Hospital.

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  1. Incredible article. Thank you for all you do. Keep shining and inspiring.

  2. Thank for all you do for our team and the families you serve.

  3. We see you Rev. Dr. Bell. We appreciate the way you show up for those who are in need. We thank you for the encouragement and the light you share and will continue to champion your loving spirit.

  4. Such an inspiring passionate presence in a very difficult calling/profession. So eloquently written and expressed. Thank you for all you bring to the patient and families you serve!

  5. Chaplain Joan Collins March 9, 2023 at 7:10 am · Reply

    Thank you Chaplain Dr. Bell for this tear evoking article. I literally was floored because of the information you shared in therein. I have experience so much sexism and I would also say “racism” as this is what I discerned. It didn’t come from my enemies, but from those who stake claim to the name of Jesus and served to make me feel less than human, less than a child of God, let alone one who have been called to serve in this capacity. May God continue to bless you in all your ways and that you continue to take a stand for the marginalized and those who are made to feel some kind of negative and denigrative way.

  6. Thank you for making me aware of what you do. I never imagined that there would be a chaplain for children and now I know, and I am so grateful for what you do. My nieces were born 3 months premature and I know someone like you would have helped support my family. Thank you for enduring the struggles so that you can continue to be a gift to others. Thank you for YOUR unique version of God in human form.

  7. Thank you for sharing your faith, love, light and godly wisdom with children, families and the world. Powerful and inspirational!

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About the Author

Rev. Dr. Christal Bell
Rev. Dr. Christal Bell

Rev. Dr. Christal Bell, MDiv DMin is a pediatric staff chaplain and bereavement coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital.