Pedro Jose Acosta, Chaplain
Chaplain Pedro Jose Acosta,
In simple terms, Pedro Jose Acosta’s job in Chaplain Services is to support patients, families and the staff of Columbia St. Mary’s (CSM). Because CSM values spiritual health in addition to physical health, chaplains are an important part of our healthcare team and can provide an intricate variety of services.
Pedro’s background and life experiences have prepared him for his work in Chaplain Services. He was born in a very small town in the southwest of Colombia, South America, and came to the U.S. in 1999 as part of a missionary group. Pedro studied English at Sacred Heart School of Theology and at the Univerity of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. In 2000, he spent three years in Kenya, Africa and described his time there as a life changing experience. “I worked in the northwest of Kenya, in the Turkana district, in one of the poorest places on earth,” he explained. “That taught me how to value even the smallest things I have and that I often take for granted. I still remember that even though people did not have their most basic needs met, they still enjoyed life and had a strong spirituality and sense of hope.”
After living in Kenya for three years, Pedro came to Milwaukee and joined the priestly formation program at Saint Francis Seminary. He left the priestly formation program after two years at the seminary and finished a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies in the Lay Formation program and got married. As part of his pastoral formation at St. Francis Seminary, he interned at St. Joseph Hospital with the spiritual services department. During that time, Pedro was impressed with the role that chaplains had at the hospital. “I discovered how important chaplaincy was, and how a chaplain can impact people’s lives, especially when they are more vulnerable and sick. Through this internship, I saw that chaplaincy was something that I really enjoyed doing.”
After he graduated from St. Francis Seminary, Pedro did a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), which is a specialized post-graduate training that chaplains need to go through, at St. Camillus Campus in Milwaukee. After a residency and working as a chaplain at a nursing home, Pedro was hired at Columbia St. Mary’s as a full time chaplain in April 2008.
Pedro, along with four other full time chaplains and three pool chaplains cover all of CSM’s campuses. Chaplains are trained professionals who recognize and respect all faiths. “One of the things that I like about being a chaplain is that I visit all patients regardless of their faith,” Pedro says, “In a normal day I would visit people from different religions, faith traditions and people who do not practice a religion, but are spiritual.”
Chaplains at CSM are available 24 hours a day and may help patients deal with the many emotions that surface with an illness or hospital stay. They can offer support before or after a procedure or help patients cope with bad news. They also:
Some are familiar with what a pastor does in a church, but often times do not realize what chaplains do in a hospital setting. Some learn what chaplains do only when they become patients in a hospital.
Pedro recalls a patient who told him, “I have been working for health care for so many years and I did not value the ministry of chaplains, but now that I am a patient, I really value all that you do.” This person had been in the hospital for a few days and at this particular point in life was going through a very hard time physically and emotionally. Pedro and other chaplains visited him daily. Those visits and their support made a big impact in this patient’s life. Pedro concludes, “I had the opportunity to journey with this patient for more than two months, accompanying him through his adjustment to illness and his spiritual struggles. This patient became closer with his spiritual resources and looked for new and healthy ways to cope with his illness and the changes in his life. When he left the hospital, he was grateful that there was always someone present to him, giving him support when he needed it the most.”
Pedro primarily works at Columbia St. Mary’s Milwaukee Campus and covers some of the Medical-Surgical units, some of the ICU units, the Cancer Center and the Regional Burn Center.
If you’d like to learn more about or contact Chaplain Services, please click here.