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Millcreek Journal

Blessing of the Hands at St. Mark’s Hospital honors healthcare workers

May 30, 2022 04:30PM ● By Deb Schoenberg Hafner

By Deb Schoenberg Hafner | [email protected]

The 21st Blessing of the Hands took place at St. Mark’s Hospital May 12 to honor healthcare workers with a spiritual respite. 

Julie Hogue, a hospital administrator, said, “The annual Blessing of the Hands is important in order to honor all the work that has been going on, especially over the last two years. Healthcare workers are always concerned about other people,” she said, “and this is a good opportunity for them to take a moment to honor themselves.”

Many of the 1,800 doctors, nurses, staff and volunteers united in the outdoor courtyard plaza at St. Mark’s, where spiritual leaders gathered to offer the blessings. A St. Mark’s representative said the Blessing of the Hands ceremony offers a day of healing for our healers. During this event, St. Mark’s Hospital recognizes caregivers and hospital employees for all that they do to promote healing and provide comfort for patients throughout the year.

Spiritual leaders who officiated included representatives from Buddhism, Catholicism, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Islam, Judaism, Lutheranism, Protestant Christianity-Multicultural Baptist, and the Ute Episcopal congregation.

The recipients’ hands were held as they received a blessing, and many enjoyed finding spiritual comfort from different religions. The caregivers were given a polished stone as a keepsake of the blessings they received.

The two-hour open event included guided reflection from St. Mark’s Hospital’s Director of Spiritual Care, the Rev. Nancy Cormack-Hughes. Cormack-Hughes said the “long standing tradition of the Blessing of the Hands is important because everyone who works here uses their hands, and after two hard years of work, I think we are craving blessings for our hands. It is important to pause for a blessing amidst the chaos of working in a hospital.”

The Rev. Jeff Allen, a deacon from St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, said his blessing “asks for God’s compassion, love and healing to spread through the hands.”

The Rev. Anna Weller-Zumwalt, a Soto Zen Buddhist priest, said that her blessing is based on the idea of being Zen, which is about calm attentiveness, so she invites the recipient to be open and mindful in how they are feeling.

Forest S. Cuch, the Ute Episcopal elder, blessed hands while burning sage and bestowing a traditional blessing.

Cormack-Hughes said over the years she has observed that people are drawn to other religions and will receive multiple blessings from the different religious representatives.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of when St. Mark's Hospital was founded by the Episcopal Church in Utah. In 1988, the Episcopal Diocese of Utah sold St. Mark's Hospital to HCA Healthcare. Part of the agreement gave the Diocese some oversight within the hospital, and the Episcopal Community Services (ECS) was created. The ECS is the only ACPE chaplain education program in Utah. Today, ECS is a partner of HCA in Utah, with the depth, capacity, and elasticity to meet hospital needs for professional chaplains.

The Blessing of the Hands ceremony is a celebration in recognition of National Hospital Week, organized by the diocese’s Spiritual Care Team. St. Mark’s Hospital acknowledges the importance of the role of spirituality in the healing process for patients and their family members.