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Intensive Care

Kyle Laylan makes the rounds to offer a calming presence and spiritual support.
Will Arnold learns his way around the hospital so that he can put others at ease.
Aaron Laskiewicz (far left) celebrates a fulfilling summer of pastoral care with his CPE group.
Jose Lopez (center) offers prayers and encouragement to a young couple with an infant in intensive care.

It was a Saturday afternoon in June, and Kyle Laylan    (La Crosse) had just been called to the hospital room of a comatose man who did not have long to live.  Kyle knew the gravity of the situation but had no idea what he would be able to offer the family.  As he entered the room, he was surprised to see so many people present.  They all fell silent and looked at him.  Kyle said to himself, “All right.  Let’s do this.”

He introduced himself to each person and gathered them around the bed.  Kyle took the hand of the gentleman next to him.  Everyone followed suit.  Kyle offered a heartfelt, spontaneous prayer over the dying man, and then invited the others to pray the Our Father with him.  He asked questions about the man’s life to spur good memories and to assist in the grieving process.  There were tears, a few laughs and some hugs.  In all, he spent 90 minutes with the family, helping them deal with an intensely difficult situation.

This is Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).  It is the summer assignment for seminarians before their third year of theology at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary.  The goal is to learn how to handle encounters with people in crisis.

Will Arnold (Milwaukee) says the experience is invaluable.  “There are no skills you can learn in the classroom to prepare you for these situations.  You have to completely surrender yourself to the Holy Spirit so He can work through you.” 

After rounds in the hospital, CPE groups meet in a classroom to analyze and critique their actions.  It requires honest vulnerability, shares Aaron Laskiewicz (Milwaukee).  Aaron struggled with knowing how he was truly doing until one day when he was asked to visit a particular patient.  The elderly woman’s son had overheard Aaron praying with the person in the next room.  He was so moved by Aaron’s prayer, he asked Aaron to pray for his mother too.  When a granddaughter arrived later in the afternoon, they had Aaron paged to come back and pray with them again.  “That was God’s grace at work, letting me know I’m doing okay.”

As Jose Lopez (Green Bay) explains it, CPE is a difficult but wonderful experience.  “After years of learning theory in the Seminary, the Gospel came alive in the hospital when I saw Jesus within the suffering of the patients.  It gave me a stronger appreciation for the fragility and sacredness of life.  It challenged me to look at life from God’s perspective, through His eyes, and to give of myself totally.”

Clinical Pastoral Education is one of many programs designed to prepare our seminarians to be the best possible priests.  The seminary’s comprehensive formation encompasses the human, pastoral, spiritual and intellectual dimensions of priestly ministry.  In addition to the academic and spiritual training, real world experience is gained through teaching parishes, societal ministries and CPE.

Thank you for your ongoing generosity that allows us to offer this exemplary formation.  We could not meet the demands of forming priests in the image of Jesus Christ without your support.  With over 50 men at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary this year, your contribution is needed more than ever.  I humbly ask that you consider making a sacrificial gift to the Seminary, knowing that you are making an important investment in the future of our Church.

May God bless you now and always!

Very Rev. John D. Hemsing



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