Hospital Healer: Bowdoin’s Director of Religious Life Also Volunteers as Hospital Chaplain

Eduardo Pazos, Bowdoin’s director of religious and spiritual life

The work of Bowdoin’s director of religious and spiritual life does not stop when he leaves the warm hues of his office at 30 College Street for the day. Eduardo Pazos also volunteers as a local on-call chaplain, a member of Mid Coast Hospital’s “spiritual care team.” And, his involvement with the hospital and its patients is inspiring some students to volunteer with the Mid Coast Hospital as well.

At Bowdoin, Pazos advises students, staff, and different religious groups (to name just a few), often providing support, resources, and connections when necessary. While he does everything from ensuring religious holidays are accounted for to helping with Bible studies, most of his day is spent talking with students. “When you’re a student at Bowdoin, we want you to bring your whole person,” said Pazos in a recent interview. “So, for a lot of students that means bringing your religious and spiritual backgrounds.”

At the same time, Pazos is also used to speaking with people in other stages of life. In his previous job as a pastor in Dallas, Texas, Pazos made a point of attending to his congregation members when they were hospitalized. His would pray with patients before their surgery, bring Starbucks to waiting family members, or pick children up from daycare.

So almost immediately upon his arrival at Bowdoin this fall, Pazos reached out to the Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick. As an ordained minister and, considering his previous work, he quickly completed an accelerated training course at the hospital and gained certification to become one of the hospitals on-call chaplains. While the hospital’s full-time chaplain works Monday to Friday, 8-to-5, Pazos and other members of the spiritual care team take weeklong shifts being on call. Pazos is equipped with a pager that indicates when — be it in the dead of night or middle of dinner — he must rush to the hospital to attend to a patient.

As with his work at Bowdoin, Pazos represents no single religious tradition in his hospital work. Instead, he engages directly with patients to serve their individual needs. He can also connect patients with clergy members who cater to specific faiths.

Mortality, tragedy, and distress may encourage a patient to reach out for the company, and prayer, of a hospital chaplain. “In the contexts of illness, of pain, and of death and dying…those are all moments that often connect, or re-connect, people with their spiritual roots or traditions,” said Pazos. “For a large number of people that is the case. Those things matter for them.”

However, it need not be an existential crisis of mortality that causes a patient, or their family, to call for Pazos. For someone accustomed to the company of his or her religious community, having the ability to read scripture, pray, or even just chat is invaluable. The ability to continue such cherished activities is “an important part of the healing process…it just encourages them,” Pazos said.

Pazos has also helped Bowdoin students interested in medicine seek similar involvements. “It allows you to be trained and have access to hospital setting in a way that no other opportunity gives you ahead of time,” Pazos said. Even for students not specifically interested in working in hospice care, the skills they learn as hospital volunteers are crucial for the medical field. “You’re constantly talking with other nurses, the doctors, the hospital administers. You are learning how to be a professional in the hospital environment,” Pazos said.

Claire Goffinet ’19 has attended the first of her training sessions and said she is excited to become a member of Mid Coast Hospital’s spiritual care team. Back in her home state of Florida, Goffinet started volunteering in the nursing homes after the death of her grandmother, and when she got to Bowdoin sought ways to continue this type of service. “I think that the process of aging into dependency can be extremely lonely, and I want to do what I can to help improve quality of life, even if for a small group,” Goffinet wrote in an email.

Goffinet recently read On Living by hospital chaplain Kerry Egan and remarked on the “comforting and listening presence” that those such as Egan provide. She connected with Pazos over her interest and he introduced her to his contact at Mid Coast. Goffinit said of Pazos’ involvement that he “was able to actually hear what I was saying, tell me about his experience, and about possibilities for getting involved locally. He really helped turn my thoughts and feelings into constructive actions.”

Goffinet will not be directly ministering to patients, but, like Pazos, will provide emotional and spiritual support where she can. For Pazos, too, it’s about helping patients heal in any way possible. “It’s our job to help [patients] heal,” he said. “to help them get to a better place.”

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