The Blessing of Chaplaincy Services During Childhood Cancer

Four Diamonds families are blessed to have a dedicated chaplaincy services available to them to take care of their spiritual and emotional well-being while their children are being treated for childhood cancer. Daniel, Four Diamonds chaplain is available to talk with kids one on one, with parents or siblings, or an entire family.

Daniel is coming up on his two-year anniversary with Four Diamonds, and continues to learn every day, both about the families and how he can help them. “Part of taking care of the spiritual and emotional well-being of these kids is finding out what their spirituality actually is,” says Daniel. “It’s a ministry of compassion and presence. If God gets pulled into it, great, but I will never push it.” This is important as some Four Diamonds families are faith-centered, and some are not.

Daniel ministering to a child with the Four Diamonds Chaplaincy

There is no such thing as a typical day for Daniel. On top of being the Four Diamonds chaplain, he is also part of the larger pastoral services department at the hospital, which comes with some additional responsibilities including teaching medical school residents and being on-call for the entire hospital at times. For the Four Diamonds part of his days, he attends medical rounds about once a week to get the medical standing of children and speak to the staff to see if they think there is a need for him. When he is not working with families, he is introducing himself to new and existing patients and assessing each family and situation to see where he is most needed. When Daniel is speaking with families, two topics he often starts with and discusses are hope and feeling overwhelmed. “Hope is a precious gift, but it is a gift we do not always recognize the fruits of,” says Daniel. “We also know that life for a family facing childhood cancer can be overwhelming. I encourage families to open themselves up to others and allow something bigger than themselves to help. I find this a huge step in healing.”

A Journey to Chaplaincy

Daniel had quite a journey that led to his current destination at the Penn State Health Children’s Hospital. He started his spiritual journey at a Roman Catholic seminary in Philadelphia, but decided it was not the right time and situation for him. After leaving the seminary, he attended multiple colleges trying to figure out a degree program, and eventually earned a degree in interior design. For twenty years, Daniel worked for a landscape decorating company in the holiday division, where he specialized in high-end holiday displays. After twenty years, Daniel and his family decided to make a change and moved from Philadelphia to Lancaster. The move also came with the need for a career change. Daniel began teaching, but he couldn’t keep pushing away the calling he received years before. He knew he still wanted to work with kids and chaplaincy. He went back to school and received a master’s degree in divinity, and also attended St. Gabriel's Seminary where he was ordained a priest in the Old Roman Catholic Church. Shortly after, by the grace of God, the chaplain position with Four Diamonds became available at the Children’s Hospital. Now he has been helping our families for nearly two years and shared some life advice, “if God is knocking at the door, just answer it, because he doesn’t stop.”

Daniel ministering to a parent with the Four Diamonds Chaplaincy

Navigating Joyous and Difficult Moments in Childhood Cancer

Being a chaplain working with families facing childhood cancer has both joyous and difficult moments. Daniel finds joy in seeing the rapid improvements that some children have. He recalled a moment when he thought one child may never walk again, and how they are now walking, talking and in remission: a full turnaround. Also, seeing when children come back post-treatment in the clinic is a joy. “When they come back for a check-up, with hair, ‘breathing new life,’ that’s the reward,” says Daniel. Sometimes when the results of treatment do not produce the outcomes a family is hoping for, there is also knowing that he was there for the family throughout and has helped them in a different way. “With our jobs, we see it go both ways, and we have to be there to support both sides,” says Daniel. One moment he recalled that was extremely difficult was when multiple children had passed away within a very short period of time. He not only was there for the families of these children but needed to be present and help the Children’s Hospital staff as well. Grief can sometimes take hold of Daniel as well, and he needs time for his own healing, all while making sure everyone else is well taken care of.

A Chaplaincy Program Poised For Growth

Two years of joy. Two years of sorrow. Two years of growth. “It took a year to build the trust,” says Daniel. “Now we are ready to grow.” The key piece of Daniel’s job is to build trust. Because of the trust, the conversations are now coming more easily. Remember, “if God is knocking at the door, just answer it because he doesn’t stop.” The door is being knocked on constantly for Daniel, and lucky enough for our families, his door is always open.

To learn more about the Four Diamonds chaplaincy program and other ways we provide for our families, click here.