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Utah's spiritual leaders bless hands that heal

Published: Thursday, May 15 2014 5:00 p.m. MDT

The Rev. Matt Seddon of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church blesses the hands of Hadley Regal, a speech therapist at St. Mark's Hospital, during an interfaith blessing of the hands for caregivers and support staff at St. Marks Hospital in Salt Lake City, Thursday, May 15, 2014.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Nicole Pruitt was blessed by a number of faith leaders Thursday.

It was an opportunity to receive something she imparts on others every day as a resident chaplain at St. Mark's Hospital.

"A lot of patients ask for prayers, and others just want to talk about their spiritual experiences and what it all means to them," she said. "I carry them in my heart and bring them into my own prayers."

Pruitt, who became a chaplain in the U.S. Army, enjoys when various religions come together for a similar purpose, which is what happened Thursday at St. Mark's during the annual Blessing of the Hands ceremony.

"It is empowering to be prayed for by somebody who doesn't know your background," she said.

Spiritual leaders from seven faiths convened on the plaza, allowing physicians and staff at the hospital to receive blessings "to honor the work that is done in the hospital and acknowledge the suffering that is there," said the Rev. Lorie Donen Nielson, a Zen Buddhist.

"Our hands communicate a lot of care to our patients," said Jody Voulton, a registered nurse at St. Mark's.

She said just having a hand on someone is often all they need to be calm about the situation they are in.

Voulton was blessed by a Jewish rabbi, an LDS chaplain, a Lutheran pastor, an Episcopal minister, Native American healers and the Rev. Nancy Piggott, hospital chaplain supervisor and a representative of the United Church of Christ.

Piggott said each participant can offer traditional blessings or something more specific based on the needs of the person being blessed.

"I typically give thanks for their life, their compassionate heart and skilled hands, and ask for strength for them as they do their work that is sometimes challenging," she said.

"Your spirit is what empowers you to feel hopeful," Piggott said. "Without spiritual resiliency, your health is less vital."

Spiritual healing is a significant element of the care offered at St. Mark's, said hospital CEO Steve Bateman.

"I am convinced, based on science, that it helps people heal faster," he said. "The spiritual element helps to make treatment more personalized and of higher clinical quality."

Bateman said prayers and blessings in many faiths — most commonly LDS and Catholic — have been provided for patients upon request since the facility's founding by Episcopal ministers in 1872.

"I love it," said Hadley Regal, who works at the hospital as a speech therapist. "There is a very big spiritual care presence here. I think the patients definitely benefit from it."

Bateman said religion, blessings of healing and prayer are never forced upon any patients, but it is an important part of the St. Mark's Hospital experience.

While each faith leader administered different types of blessings, including eyes closed, eyes open, with oil or with smoke, Pruitt said similarities existed in that each imparted compassion, love and gifts of healing to the hospital workers.

St. Mark's nurse Tiffany Murphy said any extra help is welcome in their line of work.

"It makes us more compassionate and helps us put (the patients') needs above my own feelings," she said.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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