Retired from a very privileged Ministry
Eleanor Redican fcJ retires from Cork Maternity Hospital
I have to begin by saying that putting pen to paper is not where my gifts lie. Anybody who really knows me will be very surprised to see that someone was able to persuade me to share a few of the wonderful experiences I have had in my Ministry as Hospital Chaplain in General Services but mainly in Maternity over the past thirty-three years.
I made my tertianship in 1982. Prior to that, I was in a parish in Middlesbrough and doing Chaplaincy in the Maternity Hospital which was attached to the parish at that time. I loved the ministry in both parish and hospital but I had not been trained or qualified for either at the time.
As most of you will know, during the tertianship there are six weeks of ministry. For this experience, we were encouraged to do something completely different from anything we would have done before. For me, it was slightly different as I was at a crossroads between ministries, so I opted to have my experience in two hospitals in Salford. At the end of my first week I just knew without a doubt that it was where I blossomed and where I could use my God-given gifts. I did a project while I was there which I still treasure. I knew then that I had to train and qualify for the ministry if I was to go ahead. Sr. Breda O'Farrell was very willing to allow me to do this. Before being accepted, I had to go before a board of six people. Right from the start, there was nothing easy about it, but I believed in it so much that I was prepared to turn myself inside out which I did as it all revolved around the self except for the Theology modules. All my training was in Cork and I qualified in Dublin.
Before coming back to Ireland, I had worked in the Maternity Services for five years. I then came to Cork where I have been working in two maternity hospitals for the past twenty-eight years. In all, I have been so lucky to have been in hospital chaplaincy for the past thirty-three years until I retired a few months ago.
What a wonderful privilege has been mine all through those years. I could never consider it a job but a way of life in which I tried to walk with the most vulnerable and heartbroken parents. Most of what I did was in this area. I spent lots of time trying to make sense of what had happened when they would lose their babies. I had lots of reasons for questioning the Lord for which I never got any answers. My Ministry had a great deal of sadness – it was very emotional, but so rewarding. It went to the very core of my being especially when it came to carrying out the baby's service and going to the cemetery to bury the little one. Parents' grief was always palpable and there were tears shed on both sides. I must have buried hundreds of little babies over the past thirty-three years. All parents were offered on-going bereavement counselling and I was on call 24/7 as I was the only Chaplain. I was no martyr as I absolutely loved what I really believed God had called me to do.
I made wonderful friends during those years both with parents and staff. I could not count the number of godchildren I have as when parents would return to our services to have a healthy baby they would ask me to be godmother to their newborn.
I always said that my greatest friends were: the staff in the Crematorium, the staff in the Cemetery and the staff in the Funeral Home. They were all so good to me in my daily ministry. In all my years I was just so lucky to work with such wonderful consultants, midwives, household, porters, security and reception staff. They were all so supportive towards me in what I tried to do.
I am sure it was not easy for Sr. Breda O'Farrell to allow me down this path of the unknown, but she did. I got the chance to thank her when she was ill in hospital in Limerick. The Lord works in strange ways. I had never done community service in Maryville but that particular summer I offered to do a weekend there. Of all weekends, the Lord decided to call Sr. Breda home and I was privileged to have been with her and to say the final prayers.
So many parents, doctors and midwives would ask me how I did what I did, but they would only see my "giving" but maybe not what I received in return – it was immeasurable.
I thank the FCJs, my family, work colleagues and above all the parents who allowed me into their lives when they were at their most vulnerable and who shared the deepest pain.
May I continue to be there for others maybe in a different way now since I am no longer in the Cork University Maternity Hospital. There is still a very full ministry after official retirement!!