At Holy Family Medical Center in Des Plaines, Illinois, chaplain and School Sister of Notre Dame Marlene Panko told Health Progress magazine, “we respect the integration of mind, body and spirit.” And she’s doing just that with her Loving Heart, Healing Hands program.
To the background of soft, instrumental music, Sister Panko gives hand massages to staff members and then talks and prays with them. She’s been providing this service for 10 years, starting it at a hospital in Santa Monica, California.
“I wanted a program that would not take away time from [the employees’] jobs,” said Sister Panko. “Soft music and touch, in my mind, are healing qualities. That’s an important part of this program. It just takes 3 to 5 minutes for this experience. That is what captivated the staff. They don’t have to miss out on their responsibilities, and they get a lift to help them get back to their work. You can see the peace and relaxation coming over them as I massage their hands.
“As a chaplain,” she said, “I see myself being available to patients, families, and staff members. I have many opportunities to work with patients and families, but my heart goes out to the employees and doctors and nurses. They work hard and carry heavy responsibilities. They deal with life-and-death situations every day. This weighs heavily on the staff. The helpers need help, too.”
The employees Sister Panko ministers to praise her for her work. “I firmly believe in the power of prayer,” said Eleni Harris, a psych intern-therapist. “Praying with Sister Marlene has provided me with a sense of inner peace, clarity, strength, and acceptance. I have witnessed miracles in both my personal and professional life. She truly touches and inspires all who come in contact with her.”