The Chaplain's Mission: Help People Find A Meaning To Their Cancer Diagnosis

September 4, 2013 Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center

The Rev. Sam Scriven, senior chaplain at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, is a man of God who helps patients facing cancer find their own unique voices as they fight the disease. But, Scriven’s mission goes beyond helping those diagnosed with cancer. It also touches on the network of people who care for and love that person.

This chaplain understands that the concept of spirituality means different things to different people. He says it simply: “I’m in the business of meaning-making, not proselytizing.”

Scriven believes that regardless of his own religious beliefs, his mission is to help those who seek his counsel find meaning of a frightening, unfamiliar situation.

“Meaning-making is something that anyone can buy into,” he says. “The skilled chaplain can take the simple idea of creating meaning and facilitating a conversation with anyone, religious or not. Our goal is to find another way to help them cope.

“In either case, my route stays the same. I listen to what they say. I seek out that glimpse of what’s meaningful to them: God or simply the word ‘love.’ From there, I can help them develop a theme from which to cope with their circumstance.”

Either by meeting individually with a person dealing with cancer, or the loved one’s family or friends, Scriven says he wants to help give a voice to those who haven’t yet developed language to deal with the diagnosis.

“I always seek opportunities for people to be in communication with each other and share their vulnerabilities. Those are sacred moments that will be meaningful.”

Find a Support Group Near You

Rev. Scriven leads a caregiver support group at Providence Saint Joseph in Burbank. Support groups provide spiritual, emotional and practical guidance for anyone trying to cope with cancer – patients, caregivers, families or friends.

Learn more about support groups in your area:

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