FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- The Fairfield and Westport-Weston Clergy Associations has appointed the first full-time professional chaplain to serve at a privately held long-term care facility in Fairfield County.
The Rev. Susan Owen was appointed director of spiritual care at Carolton Hospital in Fairfield. Carmen Tortora Jr., CEO of the Carolton, made the announcement.
She was introduced before 40 clergy, two bishops and Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau at a recent event.
“While many of our elderly patients and residents are physically declining, they have great potential for growing spiritually,” said Tortora. “In the interest of providing the complete care that they need, we must also optimize their wellness spiritually, as well as physically and mentally.”
As the full-time on-site chaplain, Owen will help the patients, residents, their families, and the Carolton staff access religious and spiritual resources. She will also act as the liaison between the patient and the local clergy, in order to support spiritual growth.
“We look forward to connecting with clergy of congregations from which the patients come, as well as with those patients and residents who are not currently part of a congregation,” said Owen. “Spiritual support to those who are not members of a congregation will be available upon request.”
This spiritual care program will build on the volunteer service that local clergy have offered at the Carolton through the years. Worship services have been routinely provided by local congregations and parishes on a rotating basis, and the Rev. Victor Martin of St Thomas Aquinas Parish has administered the sacraments to residents and patients for over 20 years.
Owen graduated from Princeton University with high honors in religion before earning a doctorate from the University of Virginia in religious studies, with a concentration in ethics. She was ordained to the ministry by the United Church of Christ and has served as a parish minister, an adjunct assistant professor at Quinnipiac and Southern Connecticut State Universities, a health care ethicist with the Veterans Administration National Center for Ethics in Health Care, and a lecturer on medical ethics at the Yale Divinity School.
She has also worked with veterans and others who live with brain injuries and initiated and co-developed Hope House, a pilot transitional living facility for persons reintegrating into the community after suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
The Carolton was founded in 1954 by Carmen Tortora Sr., who bought an old house for the purpose of caring for senior citizens. What began as a 36-bed skilled nursing home has grown into a 229 bed, in/out patient chronic care and rehabilitation hospital, which treats hundreds of patients each year.
Photo identifications, from left: First Selectman Michael Tetreau, Bishop Frank Caggiano, the Rev David Spollett (back), Dr Susan Owen, Carmen Tortora Jr., the Rev. John Twiname (back), President of the Westport-Weston Clergy Association Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn, Conservative Synagogue, and Bishop Bela Poznan.
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