Thrive by IU Health

August 26, 2020

Father Patrick is a ray of sunshine at Methodist Hospital

IU Health Methodist Hospital

Father Patrick is a ray of sunshine at Methodist Hospital

“Chaplaincy is not all about religion. It’s about being present through human suffering and pain.”

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Father Patrick Nwokeogu is a joyful presence in a place where suffering is no stranger.

The Catholic priest spends his days ministering to the needs of patients and staff at IU Health Methodist Hospital. It’s a calling for this chaplain, a calling he believes God prepared him for decades ago when he helped care for his ailing father and grandmother back in his home country of Nigeria.

His father passed away in 1996, one month before Father Patrick’s ordination, but he takes comfort knowing he is on the path chosen for him.

A chaplain for two years at Methodist, he starts his day in the surgery assessment area, where he checks in on team members and on patients who are being prepped for surgery.

“He’s probably the best part of the morning for us,” said RN Katelyn Kingsbury. “He makes a huge difference. Everybody knows if 6:30 a.m. is here and Father Patrick has not arrived yet, we’re wondering where he is.”

As if on cue, the chaplain walks into the assessment area and gathers available team members in a circle for voluntary prayer to start their day.

“I believe it helps the team,” Kingsbury said, as the nurses and techs disperse after a few minutes to go about their tasks. That leaves Father Patrick to quietly check in with patients who are waiting to be transported to surgery.

“You can’t really tell with the mask on, but he’s always smiling,” the nurse said. “Everybody loves Father Patrick.”

“MY NAME IS ED, GOD KNOWS ME”

Ed Vennon is at Methodist to have a stent placed in his right carotid artery, which is about 70% blocked.

“Good morning, may I come in?” the chaplain asks.

Father Patrick never assumes that patients want to talk with him or pray with him, but Vennon is receptive.

“Sure, how are you chaplain? I’m at your disposal, as you can see,” Vennon says with a chuckle.

When Father Patrick asks about the patient’s impending surgery, Vennon, 84, is matter-of-fact about it, telling the chaplain that he’d had a couple of TIAs or transient ischemic attacks. These types of mini-strokes last only a few minutes and occur when the blood supply to part of the brain is briefly blocked.

It was Vennon’s ophthalmologist who saw signs of the TIAs and suggested he be seen by a physician.

“The diagnosis was right on target,” Vennon said. “That tells me, chaplain, that the Lord is looking out for me.”

Vennon, a retired lobbyist who dabbled in journalism early in his career, has seen the inside of a hospital many times in his eight decades. He was just 8 years old when he contracted polio and spent eight months convalescing at Riley Hospital for Children in 1944-1945. The Rotary Building was dedicated in 1931 as a convalescent center where children could live, receive care and attend school.

“That was a hard time for my family because the war was on and for some reason, I was shipped away from our home in northwest Indiana to Indianapolis to recover.”

His parents were only able to visit on the weekends, one hour with his dad and one hour with his mom.

As Vennon talks, Father Patrick listens. That’s a big part of his job – listening for and responding to fears and anxieties in the hospital setting.

“How do you feel about this surgery?”

“Confident,” Vennon replies. “What’s going to happen is going to happen. If my time is getting short on this Earth, that’s OK.”

As Father Patrick prepares to step out of the room after a short blessing, Vennon thanks him and leaves him with this: “My name is Ed, God knows me.”

MEET PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE

Most patients Father Patrick sees display more anxiety than Vennon, but the mission is the same – to meet people where they are.

Father Patrick came to Indianapolis from Los Angeles, where he served as a parish priest for four years. The transition in ministry has been rewarding. The transition in winter weather? Not so much.

“The first winter here, it was brutal,” he said. “It was my first time to see snow. I enjoy seeing everything white, but it was scary to drive. I remember at one intersection, I pressed on my brakes and my car kept going, right through the red light.”

Cold and snow aside, he is happy to be working in healthcare ministry in the state’s largest hospital.

“Chaplaincy is not all about religion,” he said. “It’s about being present through human suffering and pain.”

Father Patrick, who has degrees in philosophy and theology and is certified in clinical pastoral education, is currently working on a master’s in psychology.

“I’m happy doing what I do. I get fulfillment and I try to share that with everyone,” including the team members, he said.

Healthcare is a noble profession, he added, and it’s important to recognize everyone’s humanity and dignity in the jobs they do and the lives they lead.

That’s one of the reasons he is so beloved down in surgery assessment, Kingsbury said.

“He’s always doing more for other people than he does for himself,” she said. “Last year, we had a surprise birthday party for him on the unit, taking time to celebrate him. He was overwhelmed.”

Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org

Related Services

Grief Counseling

Grief counseling services include chaplaincy, social work, education and mental health to help people come to terms with the end of life.

Latest Stories

Filter from

May 12, 2021 IU Health COVID-19 Data IU Health is committed to being a trusted source of information for the public during t... May 11, 2021 Daughter’s gift to her mother: A gift of life When her mother needed a liver transplant, Jessica Goss only had one issue – was she a ... May 09, 2021 Son donated liver to his mom: ‘She’s always been there for me’ When Ruth Swanson’s liver began to fail, it was her son who became her living organ don... May 06, 2021 Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine? 6 Things to Consider The COVID-19 vaccine is an important decision for many Hoosiers. You may have questions... May 04, 2021 IU Health chaplain says faith, informed by science, led him to get the vaccine As an African-American, Joe Colquitt understands the hesitancy some people feel about t... April 30, 2021 What does Wonder Woman do when she loses her sidekick? She starts a grief support group. Amanda Rardon, RN, is the clinical operations manager of trauma and emergency services ... April 29, 2021 Tonsil Cancer Removed by Robotic Procedure By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org She thought she had ... April 27, 2021 Intensive care nurse first IU Health patient to donate two organs She first donated a kidney then two years later Stephanie Kroot donated a portion of he... April 26, 2021 Breaking down barriers Imagine trying to secure your vaccine for a public health crisis but not being able bec... April 24, 2021 IU Health White Memorial adds VeinViewer IU Health White Memorial Hospital now has a second VeinViewer® Vision2 thanks to a $14,... April 23, 2021 Dedicated hospital employee quietly works behind the scenes He doesn’t wear a white coat, or scrubs, but this dedicated hospital worker often recei... April 22, 2021 Friends in need pay it forward. The Lunsfords and Rosemas have been friends for decades. They traveled together to Irel... April 22, 2021 Learning to live the values. Kevin Bockus’ call to chaplaincy came in the form of a siren. One Sunday morning, Kevi... April 21, 2021 The path to improved health. When Jennifer King started as an occupational therapy assistant at IU Health Frankfort ... April 21, 2021 Starting at birth: addressing racial inequity in healthcare through Cradle Indianapolis. According to the Indiana Department of Health, Indiana’s average infant mortality rate ... April 21, 2021 Vaccinating others helps heal the trauma of the past year for this nurse Erika Breivogel on administering her first COVID shot: “I had the biggest smile under m... April 20, 2021 Neurosurgeon brings minimally invasive approach to treating seizures Dylan Pierce was 25 years old when he started having focal seizures with impaired aware... April 20, 2021 New treatment gives hope, time to patients with glioblastoma Chris Bachmann is a patient battling an aggressive and cancerous brain tumor known as g... April 19, 2021 Congregations connect with patients for ongoing care Through collaboration with IU Health and faith-based communities, a Congregation Care N... April 14, 2021 Diabetes prevention program helped patient break the cycle She tried and she tried but she couldn’t seem to get in shape. When Cheryl Peglow learn... April 13, 2021 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine paused - Your questions answered Update - Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause ends On April 23, the Centers for Disease Con... April 13, 2021 COVID delayed mammograms: doctors say, ‘Get back on track’ Many things were put on hold when pandemic turned to panic. Now, doctors remind patient... April 12, 2021 Clinical medicine and research makes this transplant patient among the first IU Health has a long history as one of the top transplant programs in the country. Now,... April 11, 2021 Addiction Treatment When It’s Needed Most: Emergency medicine physician leads life-saving program at IU Health West Hospital For individuals with opioid addiction and at risk of repeat overdoses, IU Health West H... April 07, 2021 Husband donates kidney to wife: ‘This is a highlight. It’s worth it’ April is National Donate Life Month and today is Living Donor Day – a time to celebrate... April 07, 2021 On a terrible day, Center gives victims hope Nicole Perkins meets people on the worst days of their lives. As a forensic nurse exami... April 07, 2021 Philanthropy could help fund more Centers of Hope Providing emergency services for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, child ab... April 07, 2021 10 Myths about Sexual Assault April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. To help Hoosiers learn more abo... April 06, 2021 A true giver at heart Saving lives—that’s the main concern for the IU Health Bloomington Hospital Emergency... April 05, 2021 Doctor flies for a cause that has paws His career is in medicine, but this doctor extends his caring spirit outside the hospit... April 04, 2021 Sepsis invaded nurse’s body, but not her determination It started with a persistent cough. In no time at all, Alixandra “Alix” Gerringer was a... April 02, 2021 Fighting as a community In just over 100 days, the IU Health South Central Region has given out over 60,000 COV... April 01, 2021 A success story thanks to support from the team Katelyn Cole believes her success is from the team that supported her. “My life was r... March 31, 2021 Q1 2021 Quarterly Report: The year that changed the way we give. Crystal Hinson Miller, chief philanthropy officer for Indiana University Health and pre... March 31, 2021 The next new shot: Help for patients diagnosed with HIV For years, people diagnosed with HIV have taken a steady regiment of oral medication. N... March 29, 2021 Never Too Young - Here’s how this 22-year-old is Fighting Stage 4 Colon Cancer By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org She’s 22. She was 21... March 29, 2021 Program brings smiles to kids’ faces one bear at a time Patricia Harris, clinical operations manager for IU Health Tipton Hospital’s Surgical S... March 28, 2021 Rare Disease Treated at IU Health; Can Take Years to Diagnose By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org At first, there were ... March 24, 2021 Diagnosis: Hodgkin’s lymphoma - She spent her birthday in the hospital At first she thought she had allergies, and then Christine Kirk heard the word, “cancer... March 22, 2021 Patient moved to Indy for treatment of multiple myeloma By the time she got her diagnosis and became a patient of IU Health, Irene Johnson was ... March 21, 2021 Memorial & meditation: Doctor says ‘It is from the intensity of the loss we felt’ Deep sadness, feelings of helplessness, and overwhelming anxiety of what’s to come - me... March 18, 2021 Social worker, nurse – Dynamic duo in critical care They are a team, and when it comes to caring for the sickest patients, these two go abo... March 18, 2021 Grant expands IU Health virtual behavioral health services to rural counties A highly regarded IU Health virtual behavioral health program has received $1.2 million... March 17, 2021 Putting faith into practice to reach patients in isolation “A big part of getting well happens outside the doors of IU Health.” Shadreck Kamwend... March 17, 2021 Teens in Orange County high schools to benefit from counseling The timing couldn’t have been worse: Even as Indiana high school students report high ... March 16, 2021 Speech Therapist: “It feels like a privilege to be in this role at this time.” Becky Gerig, speech therapist, has been with IU Health Saxony Hospital since the hospit... March 16, 2021 Don’t Let Spring Forward Leave You Behind: 6 Tips for Healthy Sleep While most of us are ready for warmer weather and longer days, ‘losing’ that extra hour... March 15, 2021 About women’s health: Nurse’s career spans more than four decades in OB/GYN She’s been part of a team that delivered twins, triplets, quadruplets, and quintuplets;... March 14, 2021 Eight people form a kidney ‘chain;’ Four people receive the gift of life It’s like a tiny sapling that grows into a tree. One person plants the seed and the oth... March 11, 2021 Testicular cancer patient travels from Chile to Indianapolis for world-class care Pedro Cordua lives in Chile and has been battling testicular cancer for two years. He c... March 10, 2021 Johnson & Johnson Vaccine: Your Questions Answered Now that clinicians have begun to administer the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in ... March 09, 2021 IU Health Saxony’s Hip and Knee Center Honored for Commitment to Research The Hip and Knee Center at IU Health Saxony Hospital has been recognized with the 2020 ... March 04, 2021 Screening Mammography & COVID-19 Vaccine: What to Know Screening mammograms and COVID-19 vaccines are both very important for your health. Som... March 03, 2021 "Angels ... Wear Red": Letter of Appreciation Thanks Nurse at IU Health Arnett Hospital How do you ever say thank you to the one that saved your life? Pastor Jim Higdon wrote ... March 03, 2021 IU Health announces applications for Community Impact Investment Fund IU Health is pleased to announce the next round of applications for funding from the Co... February 26, 2021 Why heart health is important when recovering from COVID-19 Originally printed in the Indianapolis Business Journal on February 5, 2021Keeping Hoos... February 26, 2021 IU Health introduces online price estimate tool Before you schedule medical care, your out-of-pocket costs may be top of mind. Can I af... February 25, 2021 Welcome to the world, baby Henry! The IUHP Midwifery practice welcomed its 100th baby on Valentine’s Day. His birth didn’... February 22, 2021 COVID-19 Screener: “It was when I got home that it really hit me that Mimi had just saved my life. I call Mimi my angel now.” With tears in her eyes, Mimi Boarini recalls the day she almost lost her coworker, Larr... February 19, 2021 Hospice nurse: ‘I hold their hand and let them know they are loved’ She’s sat at the bedside of countless patients. In their final moments, they are often ... February 18, 2021 Infusion helps patients in early stages of COVID-19 As the Coronavirus continues to impact Indiana residents IU Health offers a treatment t... February 17, 2021 Heart disease and women: The reality. The symptoms. Now hear this! One out of four women, a truly frightening and staggering statistic, wil... February 17, 2021 Cardiac Rehab: ‘Giving Life Back to Patients’ When someone has a heart attack, we often hear about the role of quick intervention in ... February 16, 2021 A Program With Heart: Serving Adults With Congenital Heart Disease For most people, the phrase “congenital heart disease” likely brings to mind babies and... February 15, 2021 Telehealth enables patients to receive care in their community During this pandemic, we have all learned the value of technology in being able to work... February 15, 2021 The HALO® BassiNest® swivel sleeper introduces a new level of care for newborns at Arnett For the Mother Baby unit at Indiana University Health Arnett Hospital, the number one g... February 15, 2021 Patient receives stem cells from daughter He’s smiling. Douglas Haywood is glad to have company and he’s glad to be celebrating h... February 14, 2021 Husband donates liver to wife: ‘There was never any question I’d do it’ There were seizures, there was jaundice. As Heather Buchanan’s health declined, it was ... February 12, 2021 Heartbeats keep loved ones close when family members’ hearts ache Music therapy is part of the IU Health’s CompleteLife Program, attending to the mind, b... February 10, 2021 Firefighter felt like death was in the room Jim Redd is not one to give up easily, but even this previously healthy guy was no matc... February 08, 2021 How to Get Started Exercising at Home For a year, we've spent more time at home than ever. Although gyms and fitness cen... February 08, 2021 How to Stay Active & Healthy During Cold Winter Even in the best of winters, many of us take a cue from grizzly bears and spend the who... February 05, 2021 Transplant patient from the Middle East: ‘Here the doctors are confident, courageous’ He traveled more than 7,000 miles, about 20 hours by plane, and spent 10 months in Indi... February 04, 2021 Cardiovascular Institute Unites Patient Care and Research Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in Indiana and around the world, but... February 03, 2021 Cardiovascular Patient Has a Heart for Giving Back Ron Fredrick didn’t think he was going to die. Others weren’t so optimistic. In 2018, t... February 03, 2021 Irsay Gift Expands Successful Addiction Program A $1 million boost from Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is allowing a proven addicti... February 01, 2021 Married 46 years, they call themselves ‘the cancer couple’ They met when they were students at Indiana University, married, and enjoyed a life tra... January 29, 2021 Trauma, military service, and travel – Art therapist brings a mix of experiences She’s worked with people who experienced trauma, and she’s served with the military sta... January 27, 2021 Two-time kidney recipient: One from his wife, another from his friend National media outlets hovered like bees at a honey pot when they learned the love stor... January 26, 2021 Foundation Grants $603,279 to Benefit Patients, Team Members Systemwide IU Health hospitals across the state have received more than $600,000 in grants from IU... January 26, 2021 Tens of thousands of COVID vaccinations: Two people behind the scenes at one clinic They work tirelessly, coordinating the sites that administer the life-saving vaccine. H... January 22, 2021 Local Business Owner Gives to Racial Equity in Healthcare Fund If you’ve seen The Wire or Homicide: Life on the Streets, you might think you know what... January 22, 2021 Great Care: The Universal Language Imagine being ill or injured, and not being able to understand the doctors and nurses w... January 22, 2021 Mullins Supplies Much of What IU Health Needs Dennis Mullins’ career has been geared toward a year like 2020. His military logistics ... January 22, 2021 Rev Donors Support the “Trauma of Social Injustice” When IU Health Foundation realized it had to cancel its 2020 Rev Indy event due to the ... January 19, 2021 Great grandma, 85, rolls up her sleeve: ‘I want to see my Family’ She’s not accustomed to sitting still and slowing down. Yet, like many, a pandemic buil... January 18, 2021 What to Expect After COVID-19 Vaccine As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has expanded to more Hoosiers in recent days, you may b... January 15, 2021 IU Health Arnett announces leadership promotions Christopher Mansfield, MD has been promoted to Associate Chief Medical Officer (ACMO) f... January 08, 2021 Chief Nursing Officer receives DNP Marilyn Riley, vice president and chief nursing officer at IU Health Frankfort, recentl... January 08, 2021 IU Health Arnett Hospital announces retirement of President Daniel Neufelder, FACHE, president of Indiana University Health Arnett and the West Cen... January 05, 2021 Tips for Isolation, Anxiety, and Seasonal Depression During COVID-19 For most of us, this winter is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. Not only ... January 03, 2021 So You Want to Lose Weight in 2021? A 7-Step Guide to Losing Weight Without "Dieting" You've resolved that 2020 is your year: You're losing weight and learning how to keep i... December 20, 2020 She’s a respiratory therapist with asthma, and she’s on the front lines Jody White didn’t have to treat COVID-positive patients at Methodist Hospital, but opti... December 18, 2020 Physicians implore their communities to take COVID vaccine when it's time IU Health infectious disease physicians from around the state feel confident in taking ... December 17, 2020 IU Health begins COVID-19 vaccines: 'Light at the end of a very long tunnel' IU Health took possession of the first COVID-19 vaccines in central Indiana on Wednesda... December 17, 2020 Coping with Grief and Loss This Holiday Season The holiday season is often a time of year in which a wide range of emotions can arise.... December 17, 2020 Behavioral health numbers up; Fighting holiday stress during a pandemic The past year has been filled with anxiety, disappointment, and heartache. Never has it... December 16, 2020 Veteran nurse: ‘I can’t tell you how hard it is to see that lonely patient in bed’ For more than two decades she’s sat at the bedside of her patients. Now, IU Health Nurs... December 15, 2020 ‘Baskets of Cheer’ boost front-line teams During a stressful day, a quick cup of coffee or snack can make a big difference, espec... December 15, 2020 New program allows patients to heal at home In April 2020, when the impact of the pandemic began to hit home, IU Health had an idea...