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Live with Purpose - October 31, 2023

Chaplains Credit Goodwin Living CPE for their Success

By Timaeus Reed

According to Gallup research, 47% of people in the United States identify as religious, and another 33% identify as spiritual. That same study found that religion and spirituality are especially important to older adults.

As a faith-based not-for-profit, Goodwin Living believes in the importance of tending to the variety of spiritual needs of those in our care. Through our Clinical Pastoral Education program (CPE), we’re training upcoming leaders to provide spiritual support with visits in a range of settings, including our own campuses as well as hospice, palliative care, hospital and private homes. Regardless of the setting, CPE students learn how to meet people where they are. The point is to share in the human experience.

“Chaplains meet us amid our pain, fear or confusion,” shared Liz Pomerleau, Goodwin Living Director of CPE. “We try to offer an empathetic presence as people find their way through difficult times.”

Dozens of spiritual leaders who complete CPE at Goodwin Living go on to thrive in their careers and raise the spiritual health of their communities. Liz herself is a graduate of the program. She returned afterward to direct the program after our previous director retired.

As part of Chaplaincy and Clergy Appreciation Month, we reached out to some of our CPE alumni to check in on their experience and success, and here’s what they had to say.

David Hoppel, MDiv, Hospice Chaplain for Hospice of Health First| Goodwin Living CPE Alumni

Why did you choose to enroll in CPE at Goodwin Living?

David: I had been exploring chaplaincy while in seminary. I heard from my colleagues that I had to enroll in CPE to become a chaplain. I chose Goodwin Living because it was the closest CPE program available where I was currently living and working at a church in Reston, Virginia. [At the time of writing, Goodwin Living has the only CPE program in Northern Virginia]

What was your CPE experience like at Goodwin Living?

David: CPE was a wonderful nurturing experience where I gained insight into myself and the confidence to give authentic pastoral care.

During my final unit in 2019, my sister died by suicide. Although it was a devastating experience, I was so grateful to have the support of the CPE group to process my grief. The group became such a source of strength for me.

How did CPE at Goodwin Living prepare you for what you’re doing now?

David: CPE immensely prepared me for hospice care. When I began my work in hospice, I almost exclusively provided care to patients with dementia. My time at Goodwin Living in the memory care unit gave me the experience and confidence to be with patients who have dementia.

I learned to connect with my heart and be comfortable with providing a compassionate presence. CPE helped me become comfortable with ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’.

Keith Venson, MDiv, TH.M., BCC | Goodwin Living CPE Alumni

Why did you choose to enroll in CPE at Goodwin Living?

Keith: I heard about Goodwin Living through a chaplain from Inova, who knew the ACPE Supervisor at that time. I chose Goodwin Living because of its dynamic program and its stellar reputation.

What was your CPE experience like at Goodwin Living?

Keith: I could not have asked for a more informative and instructive program with its staff, especially Liz, whose presence, skills and abilities to challenge students to dive deeper wholistically into care was incredible. I still glee from her Didactics, Supervision, and Theological Integration sessions.

My favorite memory is from one of our group sessions. We were all over the place emotionally and physically. Liz could synchronize and reflectively help us linger a little while, so we could experience love in action. She taught us how to “listen to the whole person.” My imagination and heart were enlarged that day. I am still crafting the competency of listening and feeling it all the way through.

In that moment of caring with us, Liz demonstrated what Henri Nouwen exclaims when he opines— “Thus, nothing can be written about ministry without a deeper understanding of how ministers can make their wounds available as a source of healing.” (The Wounded Healer)

How did CPE at Goodwin Living prepare you for what you’re doing now?

Keith: Goodwin Living enhanced my theoretical knowledge and practice to create a safe and sacred space. Thus, the one I am sojourning with can rediscover and reimagine what living a good life means to them in ways that bring them dignity and self-worth. I can cultivate a space where someone can experience a therapeutic spiritually integrated model of care that accepts veterans where they are, enlarging their sense of trajectory and skills in coping, stress management and self-care. I’ve learned to enable veterans to reduce their anxiety levels and panic attacks through meditation, medication and recentering techniques

Because of this and more, I would recommend Goodwin Living for CPE above all others.

CPE at Goodwin Living Touches Many Lives

Goodwin Living stands as a spiritual hub in our community for all faiths and spiritual beliefs. We also stand for those who don’t subscribe to religious or spiritual belief systems. We strive to meet every individual where they are, celebrating the joys of life as much as we recognize and hold space for the pains we can experience. Thanks to our CPE students and the spiritual leaders who train them, we can be a greater force for social good and touch the lives of so many people.

Every chaplain is different in their approach and expertise, and we’re grateful to build on those strong foundations in our CPE program. If you want to take the next step in our journey toward chaplaincy, we have year-round opportunities for you to choose from.

Learn more about Goodwin Living CPE here to become a part of something greater!


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