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The Hands of Experience® in Advanced Health Care

Clinical Pastoral Education Center

The Department of Spiritual Care, Counseling & 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.

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 built upon adult- and student-centered process learning. Students focus their ministerial education by working with their supervisor and peers in articulating learning goals for each CPE unit. Mid-term and final evaluations, along with other written assignments, allow each student to track his or her progress in realizing their goals.

Applications to the CPE program at St. Mary’s must be submitted on a standard ACPE form, which is available by clicking here. You should answer all questions fully. As these responses provide the basis and content for candidates’ interviews, other forms of application cannot be considered sufficient to proceed to an interview.

Education opportunities

Residency Program

  • The CPE program is a 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, three of which are offered during the residency. In addition, the chaplain certifying agencies require a master’s degree in divinity, theology, pastoral studies or spirituality. (There will be no residency program in the 2016-2017 program year).

Internship Programs

  • An intensive 11-week intern unit if offered in the summer. Interns can pursue CPE for personal ministerial development, as a requirement for their seminary or ordination or as a step toward professional certification.
  • Another CPE intern unit is available from September to March. Interns in the extended unit are individuals who want to increase their spiritual care skills, meet continuing education requirements, and/or explore chaplaincy. This unit is appropriate for people who are working or are not free for the more intensive internship or residency.

Elements distinctive to St. Mary’s CPE program

  • Each CPE chaplain intern or resident teams with a staff chaplain who serves as a 1:1 clinical partner, offering mentorship and spiritual support. The staff chaplain will integrate the intern or resident into patient care on the unit he or she serves at the medical center. The spiritual, religious and denominational/sacramental needs of patients are the focus of the chaplaincy care provided to patient, family and staff — from blessing a newborn to facilitating difficult, end-of-life issues.
  • Chaplain interns and residents are highly integrated in providing care in crisis situations. They respond to every trauma, respiratory and cardiac arrest and death while on duty. While on call, chaplain interns/residents will minister to the spiritual concerns of staff, patients and families. Chaplain residents/interns will hone their crisis ministry skills daily through their presence in the Emergency Room, as well as the cardiac, neuro/trauma, and medical-surgical intensive care units.
  • Providing support to patients, families and staff is why the Spiritual Care Department exists, and so the CPE program strongly emphasizes clinical care. Out of the 400 hours required for a 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 393-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.

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 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. At St. Mary’s, chaplains address what we assess as “spiritual pains.” 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 sacramental or denominational needs:

  • Holy Mass, Communion, reconciliation, baptism, blessing
  • Anointing of the Sick
  • Holy Book or other spiritual resource
  • Community 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 of West Virginia University Hospitals in Morgantown, West Virginia. 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, Counseling and Mission. The CPE supervisor reports to the director of the department.

For more information about Clinical Pastoral Education, call (304) 526-1188 or email