Colleagues from across Northland DHB expressed heartfelt gratitude for the care, support and wisdom Ecumenical Chaplain Reverend Sue White had given them and patients over the years at her retirement morning tea on Friday.
Sue responded with her usual cheeky sense of humour telling the crowd that out of her three retirements from Northland DHB, this was the best one so far. She first retired at 68, then again at 75, and now at 81, she is leaving to enjoy time with her family, teach piano and focus on community work.
The Hospital Chaplaincy service was first established in New Zealand in 1972. Today there are nearly fifty hospitals from Kaitaia to Invercargill where chaplains and hundreds of volunteer chaplain assistants (VCA) provide spiritual and pastoral care to patients of all faiths and often none.
The role of a chaplain is to be a confidential listener that supports and encourages others to seek meaning in life. Chaplains spend time with others and explore ways of coping. And also celebrate religious rituals, if asked to do so. Sue embodies each one of those traits.
As lead chaplain, she has been responsible for recruiting, training and supervising VCAs, as well as being available as a chaplain for the Whangarei Hospital on a daily basis and during emergencies.
During her tenure, the outreach in the local community has extended to lectures and information-sharing for churches and community organisations. She has also been active in providing orientations for nursing students as well as occasional forums for doctors in training.
Through her hard work and enthusiasm, she has tripled the number of VCAs at Northland DHB. There are now approximately 50 serving our four hospitals, visiting over 500 patients every week.
Each of those who spoke at the morning tea had been touched by Sue’s kindness, both personally and professionally. Several mentioned her ability to get strangers in a state of despair dealing with death and dying to respond to her.
Customer services manager Glenys Wynyard said Sue gives back by giving people something to hold on to.
“You have built harmonious relationships with all services and opened the Chapel doors to all in need, regardless of whether they were religious or not.
“You are selfless and generous and would frequently come in to support patients, visitors, and staff out of hours and in your own time. You have supported many people through unbearable grief and hardships with the perfect mix of empathy and wisdom. Sue, you are the epitome of Northland DHB’s Values.”
After singing a waiata for Sue, Takawaenga Māori health liaison officer Camron Muriwai told her she had not only been a well for those in hospital but also colleagues when they needed someone to speak to. And he thanked her for being that well, and gift for us.
Health care assistant Glenys Epiha-Toa spoke of how Sue helped her learn to disconnect from what she deals with daily in her role.
“She taught me that I could be anything, but not everything. And most importantly, first of all, she taught me how to love myself.”
True to Sue’s practical and humble nature, her parting words of wisdom were that the saying in serving others is, “God doesn’t just call those who are qualified, but God qualifies the called.”
Sue with her gift from staff.