Clinical Pastoral Education Center

The Department of Spiritual Care & Mission at St. Mary's recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of each person as we offer emotional support and spiritual aid, comfort and encouragement to patients, families of patients and hospital staff to promote a holistic health and healing experience.

St. Mary's Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Center is accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). The center provides Level I and Level II training in CPE.

Clinical pastoral education is an experiential, adult-student centered learning process. Students resource clinical experiences to address personal, professional and educational needs and goals. This action-reflection-action model utilizes the ministerial event with patients, and brings those experiences into a reflective learning process to develop better assessment skills, interventions and more effective spiritual care. Didactics, interpersonal groups, theoretical and theological reflection seminars, case study presentations and individual supervision are key components to the educational process that will help Chaplain Students to respond with courage, honesty and a profound sensitivity to those who are suffering. Mid-term and final evaluations, along with other written assignments, allow each student to track his or her progress in realizing their goals as they further integrate their skills for patient and parishioner care.

Applications to the CPE program at St. Mary’s must be submitted on a standard ACPE form, which is available here. You should answer all questions as thoroughly as you are able.

Education opportunities

Residency Program

The CPE Residency Program is a fulltime, year-long, intensive salaried residency program. Many hospitals and hospice organizations require certification for full-time employment as a chaplain. Certification includes completing four units of CPE, and the residency program will provide those units consisting of ACPE Level 1 and Level 2 Outcomes. In addition, chaplain certifying agencies require a master’s degree in divinity, theology, pastoral studies or spirituality.

Extended Unit Internship Programs

A CPE internship unit is available as a part-time offering. Interns in the extended unit are individuals who want to increase their spiritual care skills for healthcare or parish-based environments, meet continuing education or ordination requirements, and/or want to explore chaplaincy as a possible vocational path. This unit is appropriate for people who are employed, or are not available or have credentials for the residency program, or who are clergy or laity looking for ongoing professional or personal development. A fall/winter session is offered, as well as a spring/summer unit with both units lasting 22 weeks.

Elements distinctive to St. Mary’s CPE program

Chaplain Interns and Residents are highly integrated in providing care in crisis situations. They respond to every trauma, stroke alerts, respiratory or cardiac arrest, and all codes and deaths throughout their workday or while serving on-call during the off hours overnight. Chaplain students will hone their crisis ministry skills daily through their presence and interactions in the emergency room and the cardiac, neuro/trauma, and medical-surgical intensive care units, as well as throughout the entire facility.

Providing support and compassionate care to patients, families and staff is why the Spiritual Care Department exists, and is the source of learning opportunities for the CPE Program. Out of the 400 hours required for a single unit of CPE, a minimum of 300 hours will be spent in supervised clinical ministry. A minimum of 100 hours will be in direct educational activities.

Chaplain interns and residents learn about and experience spiritual care within the hospitality of the rich Appalachian culture, the mission of a faith-based medical center, and the caring of an interfaith Spiritual Care Department. St. Mary’s Medical Center is a 413-bed Catholic, not-for-profit, tertiary care, teaching hospital that is guided by the mission, philosophy and values of the Pallottine Missionary Sisters. To fulfill the medical center’s mission, the center provides acute and skilled nursing for the tri-state region (West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio) by offering a broad range of primary and specialty health services for patients.

Staff Chaplains serve as clinical partners to our Resident Chaplain Students, offering clinical mentorship for assessing spiritual concerns, learning interventions and providing care plans for effective and sacred interactions with patients, families and staff. The Staff Chaplain will help orient Residents into patient care areas throughout the hospital and will be a resource to the Student Chaplains as they minister to the medical center throughout their contractual term.

Training in Ministry

St. Mary’s CPE program offers supervised clinical learning in both inpatient and outpatient settings, individualized mentoring by the staff chaplains and opportunities for working as members of interdisciplinary teams. Specialties include cardiology, oncology, ER/trauma, neurology, neurosurgery, behavioral health, palliative care, hospice and general medicine.

St. Mary’s Spiritual Care staff and student chaplains serve the diverse needs of patients, families and staff with an interfaith approach. Chaplain interns and residents learn ministerial skills to assist patients and families to draw upon their own spiritual resources for healing and wholeness. Whether a patient or family member is in the midst of a sudden crisis or an ongoing chronic struggle, our chaplains are available to address:

Spiritual needs

  • Meaning, forgiveness, relatedness, hopelessness and pain
  • Dealing with suffering, loss, grief, change or discouragement
  • Celebrating relief, healing, gratitude
  • Ethical decisions regarding continuing or discontinuing treatments

Religious concerns

  • Prayer, scripture, faith
  • Reconciliation, forgiveness
  • Grace-filled moments
  • Other ways God is present (or seemingly not) in life

Specific religious or denominational needs

  • Sacraments, rituals or blessings
  • Sacred Texts or other spiritual readings
  • Communities of faith or church concerns
  • Contacting church, parish, synagogue, mosque, or other houses of worship

About the CPE program at St. Mary’s

St. Mary’s CPE program was initially accredited in 2009 as a satellite program. The ACPE Accreditation Commission recommended that Accredited Membership be granted to St. Mary’s CPE program to offer Level I and Level II CPE programs on December 4, 2010.

St. Mary’s CPE program operates under the auspices of the Department of Spiritual Care and Mission. The ACPE Certified Educator reports to the Director of the department.

For more information about CPE, call 304-526-1188 or email