Thursday, April 16, 2009

Prayer is the answer, period

Members of faith community dedicate CTCA chapel

April 16, 2009

ZION -- Muslim, Roman Catholic and Christian religious officials came together to dedicate the newly renovated chapel at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Zion Wednesday morning.

“This space holds a special spot in our hearts,” said Anne Meisner, CTCA president and CEO. "This is a dream come true for us. We're all pleased and excited with the result."

The chapel is three times larger than the former chapel, said the Rev. Percy McCray, CTCA director of pastoral care. The Mary Brown Stephenson All Faiths Chapel is designed as a non-denominational space and is decorated with a tree of life theme. A water feature and a large stained glass window serve as the two focal points.

Anthony Fossland, president of Midwestern Regional Medical Center board of trustees, donated the stained glass windows to commemorate his three deceased wives, Laura, June and Beulah.

"I greatly appreciate the hospital," the Rev. Percy McCray read in a statement on Fossland's behalf. "God has indeed richly blessed me in my life." McCray is director of pastoral care at CTCA.

The dedication also included a blessing from different religious officials.

"My blessing for this new chapel is that God brings healing upon the people here," said Robert Ochsner, deacon for Our Lady of Humility Catholic Church in Beach Park.

"All of Lake County, if not the world, can be proud of what was started here," said Chaplain Hasan Hakeem, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Zion.

Hakeem shared the Muslim perspective on faith and medicine at a discussion prior to the dedication ceremony.

"We say the greatest weapon you have is prayer. You should always believe Allah (God) is a healer, but you should also go to your doctor," Hakeem said.

Ochsner echoed Hakeem's point about the power of prayer.

"Prayer is the answer, period," Ochsner said.

McCray said he didn't think there was as much of a struggle between faith and medicine as people think. He did say that people with faith tend to look for more extreme health measures.

Faith does affect the way some patients seek cancer treatments.

"I have had patients where their faith is just blinding them to the extent that unless God tells them to be treated, they won't get treated at all. That is more challenging to convince them. I tell them 'You are here because God sent you,'" said Dr. Rakhashanda Neelam, CTCA medical oncologist.

One of her patients, Lois Kearney, is a Jehovah's Witness, which does not permit her to accept blood transfusions. Kearney, a lifelong Jehovah's Witness, cited Acts 15:28, which says "you are to abstain ... from blood," according to the New International Version.

When she underwent her mastectomy, Kearney said her doctors worked with her.

"If I would have needed blood from my surgery, they told me they would comply with my wishes, which was very reassuring," Kearney said.

This particular faith restriction is among the "perceived contradictions to medical instructions" that pastoral care workers help smooth over, McCray said.

"We are obligated to honor and respect people's religious beliefs. We help moderate and help doctors understand (when) there are faith restrictions," McCray said.

The views expressed in these blog posts are those of the author and not of the Sun-Times News Group.

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