Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling / COVID-19 / Pastoral Care

Otter Pups

Since 1985, the Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings (“COMISS”) has observed the last week of October as Spiritual Care Week – a time when we celebrate the sacred work of chaplains and pastoral counselors. This year’s Spiritual Care Week theme is “Collaborative Healthcare: Chaplains Complete the Picture.” Sometimes a picture is more informative and revealing than words. Often the ministry of chaplains and pastoral counselors extends beyond words alone as they provide emotional support and spiritual care to persons in need, an essential part of the holistic interdisciplinary care that is offered within a variety of settings. Their ministry is an extension of our missional work as a Fellowship, to embody the love of God and hope through Christ, as we work together to complete the picture of putting our faith into action, to renew our world.

Take a moment this week to celebrate and thank our CBF Endorsed Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors for the good and sacred work that they do every day.

“Otter Pups”

By Nicole Tota

Did you know that otter pups hold paws when they sleep so they do not float away? My 9-year-old daughter shared this fact with me putting her little hand in mine while she fell asleep.

In times of uncertainty what are we clinging to so that we don’t float away in the sea of worry, sadness, discouragement, and stress? What can we grab a hold of so that we feel secure? Is it our faith, our family, our friends…we all need a hand we can hold.

The theme for this year’s pastoral care week is “Collaborative Healthcare: Chaplains Complete the Picture.” As I reflect on this theme I am reminded of one of our residents in the community living center (nursing home). When he first came to us he was considered for hospice and he seemed to be suffering. As he lay in bed and I completed his initial spiritual assessment he nodded his consent for me to hold his hand and voice a prayer for him.  I also recited the 23rd Psalm, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) This Veteran seemed to be at peace as I recited these familiar words and reminded him that he was not alone. 

Nicole Tota

Then the global pandemic happened and Chaplains were restricted from visiting residents in person due to the risk of exposure for our most vulnerable Veteran population. A few months later I had the gift of seeing him again and was blessed to see how much he had improved due to the passionate care he had received from staff who nursed him back to life. 

There was a piece missing though, he had not had an opportunity to engage with his faith community due to group gathering restrictions. I had a brief opportunity to lead a bible study on his unit and the nursing staff recommended this Veteran resident participate. I wheeled him to our study and he became very animated during the study pointing to the bible indicating he wanted the Bible placed in front of him. This was his way of communicating his commitment to his faith and his love for Jesus. His care team had done a great job with his physical health and now he needed connection to his faith community for his spiritual health. This was the paw that he needed to hold onto, and as a Chaplain I was blessed with the opportunity to provide him with that connection. 

As Chaplains we are gifted with the opportunity to complete the picture for those who are suffering by offering connections to the spiritual and their community of faith.

This pandemic has reminded us that as Chaplains we also need a paw to hold onto. I have enjoyed connecting with other ministerial leaders through our weekly prayer meetings of the Mid Atlantic CBF. These weekly meetings have kept me from floating away in a sea of discouragement and frustration as the pandemic and subsequent restrictions have continued indefinitely.  Chaplains remind our care institutions that we all need community engagement and connection with the divine. This is vital and necessary. As Chaplains we also must find a paw to hold onto so we don’t float away.

Chaplain Nicole Tota is a CBF-endorsed board certified Chaplain through the National Association of VA Chaplains. She provides spiritual support for the community living center and outpatient mental health at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland. She is a graduate of Mary Washington College (Fredericksburg, Virginia) and the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (Virginia). She is currently pursuing a doctor of ministry degree in Integrative Chaplaincy at Vanderbilt Divinity School (Tennessee).

We have more than 800 active professional CBF Endorsed Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors, serving throughout our country and worldwide, in a variety of specialized settings – all branches of the United States Armed Forces; the Civil Air Patrol; the Department of Veterans Affairs, hospitals and hospices, correctional institutions, fire, police, and rescue departments, colleges and universities, businesses and industries, retirement communities, counseling centers, private counseling practices, church staffs, and many other interdisciplinary settings.

To learn more about the work of CBF Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors, please visit our webpage at

You can support the work of our CBF Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministries with gifts to the George Pickle Fund and Chaplaincy Assistance Fund.

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