Understanding the role of a Chaplain

As the Chaplain for Cransley Hospice, Gerard O’Flaherty's essential role is to be beside our staff, patients, and families, to support them wherever they might be emotionally.

As the Chaplain for Cransley Hospice, Gerard O’Flaherty also works for Cynthia Spencer Hospice in Northampton and sees a few patients in Daventry. His essential role as a Chaplain to staff, patients, and families, is to be beside them, to support them wherever they might be emotionally as they face their individual journeys and challenges. He is an integral part of the team that work so hard to enable our patients to live as completely as possible until they die.

As Chaplain, his work with patients falls into three main stages:

Hospice Care

When patients first come to the hospice, they are often experiencing “total pain” which is a concept that was introduced by Cecily Saunders, founder of the hospice movement.  It best describes the relationship with pain that encompasses the whole person; physically, psychologically, socially, emotionally and spiritually. 

Gerard sits with our patients, at any time of the day or night, helping them understand their bodies, their processes, and their relationship with themselves, talking to them about their personal changes, helping them to find self-love, to process their own thoughts, and to take back their control of choice.

He is on call to listen, on occasion late into the night, or early morning, whenever patients most want to talk. Along with the rest of the hospice team, he helps patients to feel safe.

In a patient’s home

Gerard finds this one of the most rewarding stages as he gets to meet the patient’s in their own homes, with their families and on their terms, often forming a deep bond with the family. 

His presence provides another layer of care for patients and families. He serves with the different sectors of care, relieving the pressure of the unknown from the family and the patient.

His face lights up when he tells how he sees the re-emergence of a person and they live life again. He is a part of the larger Service Team that enables Patients to say “I feel safe now” when their feelings of panic and fear are relieved.

Bereavement support

The Chaplaincy Team provide non-judgemental bereavement support for soulmates & their families, whatever faith or background, believing that “We are all loving, therefore we are all uniquely spiritual in our own way, in the sense, we all share in the same desire to love and be loved from the heart.”

Bereavement support can last for months or years, depending on the person and their individual needs. “We are not meant to “fix” grief, it is a journey caused and motivated by love. It belongs when one loves deeply and bereavement support happens when someone shares this legitimate journey with you.”

Over recent months Gerard has had to carry out bereavement support calls by telephone and normally there are two trained volunteer teams, but since the pandemic, he has worked primarily with just one other trained volunteer. Like many of our team, he misses the humanness of face to face visits, he says, “It’s good, it’s not the same, but we are coping and it hasn’t changed the fundamental rule of Chaplaincy, which is to be a catalyst to enable people to discover the goodness and beauty that’s already in them.”

Gerard is also available to support our hospice staff. 

The incredible work that he does is part of the full care given by the team at Cransley Hospice, who together provide the specialist care and support to patients with life-limiting illness in Northamptonshire whilst also providing support to the families and close friends.

Softly spoken and gentle, a wise man, whose own personal experiences have equipped him well with genuine understanding and empathy.