The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Hospitals change chapels into meditation rooms


A desire to be more open and inclusive is forcing many hospitals to change the design and function of their chapels.

An explanation:

The shift to meditation rooms mirrors a growing trend among hospitals nationwide as health care centers try to make room for people from a wide variety of faiths, as well as those who have no faith or are “spiritual but not religious.”


In a stressful environment, hospital chapels, meditation rooms or prayer rooms offer employees, patients and visitors quiet refuge for individual prayer, meditation or communal worship.

Throughout the 19th century, many U.S. hospitals were built by religious groups, particularly Catholic nuns. As a result, their chapels typically resembled Protestant or Catholic churches or Jewish synagogues.

Today, hospital chapels vary widely. Some still reflect their founders’ religious roots. Others have been renovated to accommodate multiple religions, or their religious symbols have been removed so the rooms resemble waiting rooms or art galleries.

“There was a diversity for a long time that was Christian diversity,” said the Rev. George Handzo, vice president of pastoral care leadership and practice at HealthCare Chaplaincy, based in New York City.


Staff and patient populations at many U.S. hospitals are much more diverse than they once were, and hospitals know it makes good business sense to accommodate them, Handzo said. “They don’t want to lose those people to the place down the street.”

Some hospitals have Jewish family rooms or Shabbos rooms, which can be stocked with couches, prayer books, kosher food and kitchen appliances. Located in hospitals or nearby apartments, they are typically paid for by the local Jewish community.

Some prayer rooms are outfitted for Muslim worship. Five years ago, Boston’s renowned Massachusetts General Hospital installed a mihrab, or ornately tiled archway, in a prayer room to help Muslims orient themselves toward Mecca during prayer.


Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown University Hospital added Muslim prayer rugs at the back wall of its Catholic chapel, and later removed the Stations of the Cross facing Mecca, said the Rev. Brian Conley, the Jesuit hospital’s director of mission and pastoral care.

Check out the rest at the Beliefnet link.

Comments read comments(28)
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posted July 21, 2010 at 11:29 am

“Georgetown University Hospital … removed the Stations of the Cross facing Mecca….”
Words cannot express how unsurprised I am.

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Patrick Finley

posted July 21, 2010 at 11:52 am

This shouldnt surprise anyone about Georgetown Howard – They covered the Sacred name of Jesus…what are a few stations to them?

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posted July 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm

I’m sure if there was a satanist with a big enough pocket book, they’d put up a pentagon too.

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posted July 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm

@christi: Satanists would put up a “pentagon?” I’m hoping you intended this to be as funny as it came out…. That would have to be one ginormous poccket book!

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posted July 21, 2010 at 2:01 pm

In the story’s image: nice masonic pyramid with circle/eye in the middle. Lucifer is very pleased! The true PC, NWO-approved chapel.
Relatedly, I recall reading someone’s well put reminder that at the moment of death, the soul who has hidden among the reeds of (neverminding aetheism for now) agnosticism or “spirituality” finds zero comfort and instead wants the personal God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to say nothing of Christ.

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Just Saying

posted July 21, 2010 at 3:31 pm

If it’s a Catholic Hospital it should have a Catholic Chapel…
If it’s a Jewish Hospital it should have a Jewish Chapel
If it’s a Mormon Hospital it should have a Mormon chapel
If it’s a Muslim Hospital it should have a Muslim Chapel
I think you can see where I’m going with this

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posted July 21, 2010 at 3:43 pm

I say let them go down the street!
Atheists don’t meditate
and most other faiths have their own places to go that is separate from the hospital; they want a respite if nothing else.
When cowardly private administrations take away Christ out of a chapel then they are going to find nobody in that room anymore because it will be meaninless!

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posted July 21, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Deconstruction! Why are we Catholics the only ones to be denied an identity? (BTW, Deacon, I always find your postings informative and very worthwhile, but having to combat that “script” thing all the time is very off-putting. Can anything be done?)

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posted July 21, 2010 at 6:39 pm

This coming from the jesuits? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you!
Seriously, the society of Jesus is anything but. They stopped being Catholic a long time ago and anyone paying attention knows it.
I’d be interested to see their numbers as far as new vocations. They offer absolutely nothing to a young man discerning God’s call.

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posted July 21, 2010 at 7:38 pm

What happened to the once great defenders of the Church, the Jesuits?

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Matt W.

posted July 21, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I hung out in the ICU at our local hospital for 2 weeks last fall while my father was dying. The waiting room was steps away from the chapel, which was completely vacant almost all the time. Perhaps we Catholics should flood these “meditation rooms” to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in solidarity with the suffering in these hospitals?

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posted July 21, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Dear Deacon Greg,
when are you going to do the story with the headline: “Catholic Churches turn Chapels into Meditation Rooms”?
That picture looks A LOT like two chapels I’ve been inside, and generally speaking, it’s the “style” (if you can attribute “style” to atraditional art) of most American Catholic churches built in the last few decades.

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posted July 21, 2010 at 10:03 pm

“Accept them? How can I accept them? Can I deny everything I believe in? On the other hand, can I deny my own daughter? On the other hand, how can I turn my back on my faith, my people? If I try and bend that far, I’ll break. On the other hand… No! There is no other hand.” ~ Tevye (Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick)
This is going TOO FAR! Mother Mary Pray for us sinners.

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David Volk

posted July 21, 2010 at 11:14 pm

It certainly is discouraging, and does nothing to help the reputation of the Jesuits. Fr. Mitch Pakwa is a Jesuit. Cardinal Avery Dulles is (I know he died) a Jesuit.
If this is hard for you to stomach, how much worse a “Catholic” hospital employing a known abortionist?

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Obamanation @ Notre Dame

posted July 22, 2010 at 2:33 am

Nothing surprises me…anymore –

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Paul Preston

posted July 22, 2010 at 7:35 am

Well, this is a development. At least these rooms have become multi-denominational now; everyone can pray in them regardless of your race, color, beliefs, etc.,
I found meditating difficult at first, especially when your surroundings are noisy. I use a sound masking system to help me concentrate and it has helped me a lot

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posted July 22, 2010 at 9:38 am

This is a big mistake. How many have had profound experiences in front of the crucifix or cross. Jesus is the only one who can give complete healing and love. I don’t know of any culture that denies that Jesus walked on the earth and was at least a healer. Why Catholic institutions would represent nothing when they have the greatest of everything in their grasp.

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posted July 22, 2010 at 10:10 am

As a cancer patient, I have been in and out of the hospital many times in the past 3 years. I find no comfort in the non-religious “meditation room”. Without the Cross, these rooms are devoid of meaning. They might as well be another waiting room. I also find no comfort in the carefully non-denominational chaplains, both male and female. I want a Catholic priest to sit and pray with me, but they are all too busy administering parishes. And we have no Catholic nuns in our area. So what to do? I guess the best option in my circumstance is to pray the holy Rosary, but it would really be nice to have a faithful Catholic there by side.

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posted July 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm

“A desire to be more open and inclusive is forcing…”
“Desire” and “Forcing” is a curious word choice combination. Why not “desire/leading”, “desire/challenging” etc. Unfortunately, true word combination should be “fear” of losing federal and state monies, “fear” of being attacked, is “forcing”…
Interesting that meditation or contemplation of nature is considered a substitute for worship/prayer. Why waste the taxpayer money on that (as another person has already asked)?
Any excuse (or none) would do for the Jesuit/Georgetown sinners against hospitality to remove the stations of the cross.

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posted July 22, 2010 at 2:19 pm

To me, it’s the absence of the Blessed Sacrement that makes a meditation room valueless. I can pray at a bedside or in the waiting area. The only value to a chapel for me is if it reserves the Sacrement, so I can pray in the presence of the Lord. Otherwise, even a Crucifix won’t make the chapel a place I would personally feel a desire to visit.

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posted July 23, 2010 at 11:03 am

How can you be ALL inclusive when you’re EXCUDING Jesus, present in the Eucharist? God did all of the thinking for us, and yet we cast His Word aside and think we can handle things better! May God pity us.

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posted July 23, 2010 at 12:05 pm

I think alot of us forget that God hears us no matter where we are. We don’t need a cross or any type of symbol for him to hear us, as long as our hearts are humble in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Father he hears our prayers.

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posted July 23, 2010 at 12:53 pm

The non-Muslim dhimmi in America must learn their smaller place in the greater scheme of a new social, political and theological society which, God willing, will perhaps be soon brought about.

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posted July 24, 2010 at 12:41 pm

If I may address Mary’s question– being ALL inclusive is impossible. In order to call one teaching truth or acceptable, another one must be called a lie. In order to include one thing (teaching, practice, custom, idea, you name it…), another in is inherently excluded. Try as they may, being ALL “inclusive” of everyone’s everything is impossible.
Hamal-ged, we agree like oil and water. But I appreciate your honesty. Really– no sarcasm at all. I *always* prefer clarity to agreement. I can live with disagreement. No man can live with dishonesty. Let me say thank you for your honesty.

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posted July 24, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Why should a chapel(meditation room) be specific for a particular religion if the hospital is non-denominational? If the hospital is a particular religion, one would expect that it would be reflected in it’s spot for quiet time. However, IMO it can also accomadate the many other religions in this universe…yes, above poster who thinks that those who don’t believe in the divine Christ, even those folks. The fact that many hospitals recognise the diversity of beliefs and try to accomodate them is great, IMO.

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Bonnie Hillman

posted July 26, 2010 at 4:05 pm

JESUS CHRIST the LORD , The Only Savior of the world .
” I am the Way , the Truth and The Life …no man cometh to The Father except by me !
” He who hath not The SON is dead already (in his sins) .
bonnie hillman

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Ibiza Hotel

posted July 31, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Well this is the modern way of moving forward with the times.

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posted September 29, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Meditation is a practice that is used by many spiritual traditions. Since hospitals can be incredibly stressful places, I think having a place where someone can get quiet and centered is a very good idea.
My mother was in the hopsital for a month before she passed away. During that time, she had several procedures and my sister and I had to wait in a room that had a television blasting and screaming kids. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to go to a meditation room in the hospital where I could just get quiet.

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