Greenwich Chaplaincy Services: Fostering Spiritual Life at the Witherell

While we take extreme pride in the doctors and nurses who attend to our residents’ physical pains and ailments, the care of the human spirit is just as important here at The Nathaniel Witherell. In order to meet the needs of those of all faiths, Greenwich Chaplaincy Services, an interfaith, non-profit ministry, provides pastoral care, religious services, and spiritual guidance at Witherell.

“We want our residents and their families to know that we’re available in case there are any concerns that don’t fall under medical or social work needs, but have more to do with the spiritual life of the resident and his or her family relationships,” says Reverend Mike Gatliff, Director/Chaplain at Greenwich Chaplaincy Services and Director of Spiritual Care at the Witherell. “Our chaplains strive to nurture the souls and spirits of our seniors and to bring them joy.”

According to Reverend Gatliff, Greenwich Chaplaincy Services was founded in 1968 by the Greenwich Fellowship of Clergy. The organization first turned its attention to providing services at the Witherell, then the only nursing home in the Town. Since its inception, Greenwich Chaplaincy has grown in presence from one to four chaplains at Witherell.

Chaplains at the Witherell are devoted to providing one-on-one attention to residents, whether that means administering religious rites or just holding their hands. “Our goal is simply to be with a resident and to find out how they’re doing, talk about what’s on their minds and in their hearts and spirits, and make sure that they are getting everything that they need to be thriving in the community here,” says Reverend Gatliff.

Another goal of Greenwich Chaplaincy is to help residents to express their spiritual life in relationship with community. Since residents usually can’t leave to go to the places that they grew up worshipping, the Chaplaincy makes sure that there are regularly scheduled services of all faiths available at the Witherell. Jewish Shabbat services are celebrated every week, with Rabbis from local synagogues visiting and providing services for special holidays. Protestant services are provided by staff chaplains, and Roman Catholic Mass is offered by priests from nearby St. Michael’s Parish. Both Catholic and Protestant Eucharistic ministers are regular Sunday visitors.

In addition to offering these more formal services, there are more informal groups in smaller venues. Reverend Gatliff leads a Bible Study every Tuesday afternoon; Chaplain Tony Correale runs Conversations and Prayer with Vincent Galizi from the Recreation Department on Fridays, when the duo meet with residents in the day rooms on various floors for a program that combines discussion, prayer, and song. Last but not least, there is the Bible Stories program led by Roseanne Hurvitz, Witherell’s Jewish Chaplain, on Tuesday afternoons, drawing mainly from Hebrew Scriptures.

Greenwich Chaplaincy also runs a memorial service two times a year for residents who have passed away over the previous six months. This not only provides an opportunity for families to remember their loved ones, it also affords the staff who cared for them and fellow residents to remember the person whom they lost. The next service is on April 4 and there will be another in late October/early November. If requested, the Chaplaincy also offers individual memorial services at no charge to families.

Greenwich Chaplaincy can be reached by calling (203) 618-4236, or visiting their website: greenwichchaplaincy.org. You may also leave a message with the Witherell receptionist or any staff member. View a video of Greenwich Chaplaincy Services connecting volunteers to Witherell residents here.

Photo: Reverend Mike Gatliff with Witherell resident Christine Webster.

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