31 July 2005

Catholics Reach Out To Non-Christians



In this day and age, this is most refreshing news to read! Hopefully, this trend will spread like wild flowers after the Spring rain...

Mitakuye Oyasin
--ryan


Catholic hospital adds meditation room for non-Christians

By JAMES MACPHERSON
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Sherman Iron Shield used to sneak his son behind some elevators at St. Alexius Medical Center to burn sacred herbs, hoping to chase away evil spirits without setting off fire alarms and sprinklers.

The practice, known as smudging, along with modern medicine, helped his son, George, recover from a gunshot wound to the head nearly a dozen years ago, he said.

"My son is still alive," Iron Shield said.

On Thursday, the hospital dedicated a $350,000 solarium and meditation room that may be used for such things as burning sage, cedar or sweetgrass, or for singing or drumming.

Sister Renee Zastoupil, director of pastoral programs for St. Alexius, said the meditation room is the first of its kind.

"We know that it just is," she said.

The meditation room, 12 feet by 20 feet, is intended to serve people of non-Christian faiths, or those "for whom the main chapel is not suitable," Zastoupil said.

John Eagle Shield, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, helped push to get the meditation room at the hospital so American Indians could practice their sacred traditions.

"We have had a lot of tribal people come here in the past who have said they were the victims of misunderstanding," Eagle Shield said. "A lot of people were reluctant to come here."

Eagle Shield said the meditation room was several years in the making, and was a result of "sensitivity sessions" held with the hospital.

"It's a special place," Eagle Shield said. He and Iron Shield burned sacred herbs to dedicate the room.

The room features a window on the northeast side so Muslims can pray toward Mecca.

Syed Hassan, a physician at St. Alexius, said he and the dozen or so other Muslim doctors at the hospital would use the room for daily prayer.

Hassan said the window was "maybe not an exact straight shot" toward Mecca, "but it's good enough."

"We are all children of God," Hassan told the crowd of about 200 people at the dedication ceremony on Thursday. "We are more similar than otherwise."

The hospital has published rules for use of the room. The use of peyote and other drugs is prohibited, as is the "practice of any religion or act which is diametrically opposed to the Roman Catholic Church." The hospital lists "Satanism, Wicca and Voodoo" as examples.

Nancy Willis, director of marketing for St. Alexius, said the number of American Indian admissions at the hospital increased 79 percent between 1998 and 2002.

Willis said 8 percent of the hospital's 72,000 admissions in 2002 were Indians. She said 24 percent of the trauma patients admitted to the hospital were Indians, and three-fourths of those were from the Standing Rock reservation, which straddles the border between North Dakota and South Dakota.

Eagle Shield said the increase in Indian patients at the Roman Catholic hospital was due to lack of funding at reservation clinics and hospitals.

"There are a lot of special services that they can't provide," Eagle Shield said.

The meditation room has an exhaust system to suck out smoke from seashell bowls of burning sage, cedar and sweetgrass, and it is soundproof to hush singing and drumming.

Eagle Shield said "traditional healers" also would use the room to work with patients.

"The traditional healing will compliment Western healing, so we can get the best of both worlds," he said.








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