Newest Ascension Via Christi chaplain humbled to care for patients, associates

For two years, Chris Anderson worked in the Logistics department at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis.

In December, he moved to a new role, one where he could use his 35 years of pastoral ministry experience: Serving as a full-time chaplain for Ascension Via Christi’s Wichita hospitals.

Anderson prepared for that role by earning his chaplaincy certification last summer and then waited for a position to come open as he knew where he wanted to serve.

“I feel here is my place because Ascension focuses not only on healing the body, but also the mind, soul and spirit, all as one body,” he says.

Although new to his role, Anderson is already becoming known around the hospitals for his thoughtfulness and compassion with associates and patients alike.

“He always knows what to say to help you get through whatever you might be going through,” says Staci McDorman, nurse manager of Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph’s 5th-floor units. “Whether it’s huddle prayer or just in passing, he always seems to have perfect timing.”

5th-floor units. “Whether it’s huddle prayer or just in passing, he always seems to have perfect timing.”

Recently, he was called to help with a behavioral health patient in the ER’s quiet room. The patient soon opened up to Anderson, who after asking for permission, began praying for him.

“When I began, I felt led to start using words like ‘abandonment, rejected, ridiculed, left alone.’ When I finished, he was tearful because the words meant something to him,” says Anderson. “I felt in my faith that the Lord spoke through me to him.”

Anderson, who often sees patients at some of their lowest moments, says he tries to be an “encourager.”

“I never know what I’m going to encounter with a patient,” he says, noting that he may not know the patient’s condition, only that they have requested a chaplain visit. “When I don PPE to go into the rooms of patients with COVID-19, the majority of them are fearful about what will happen or become of them.”

Always mindful of contact precautions, Anderson recognizes the need for human connection.

“The one thing they hunger for the most is human touch,” he says. “Holding a hand or a gentle pat on the shoulder goes a long way.” Anderson says he has felt the power of prayer and faith in his own life.

“When I first started ministerial college, I went through a very dark time. I was praying with the Bible and dropped it, but it fell open to Psalms 32:8,” he says. “The verse reads: ‘I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.’”

Anderson says while rounding on the units, he often feels guided to reach out to a patient in a particular room or staff member who appears to be struggling.

“I stand on that verse knowing I will be led by the Lord to the ones he wants me to go and see and to pray with them.” Ronnie Stewart, director of Spiritual Services at Ascension Via Christi, says Anderson has quickly earned the trust of his hospital teammates.

“They have asked him to provide prayer, debriefings and listening sessions to the morning group huddles,” says Stewart. “Chaplain Chris is approachable and has a great listening ear for hearing the stories and concerns of the associates, patients and families.”