New Benches Make Chapel More Useable and More Spiritual, Thanks to CARE Grant


Lisa Laitinen-Egbuchulam, a Spiritual Care Provider (foreground) and Trina Diner, Manager of Palliative Care and Telemedicine at the Health Sciences Centre. New fold-down benches in the Multi-Faith Centre provide a more natural, spiritual feel and allow more room for group ceremonies. They were funded through the Family CARE grant program – a partnership between the Volunteer Association and Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation.

by Graham Strong - May 27, 2017

The Multi-Faith Centre, commonly called the chapel, at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is designed for spiritual practice and to be a space for quiet reflection. Thanks to a Volunteer Association / Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation Family CARE Grant, new benches have made the room feel more spiritual and opened it up for more people to use.

The benches, made of blonde maple, replace bulky couches and furniture that dominated the room before. They edge the wall and windows opposite a sculpture made of natural blonde wood slats of varying depths, undulating along the western wall. Nature scenes from around Thunder Bay by local photographer Eeva Niemi will hang on the walls.

“We wanted the Multi-Faith Centre to have a very natural, outdoors feel,” said Lisa Laitinen-Egbuchulam, a Spiritual Care Provider at the Health Sciences Centre. “Many people in Northwestern Ontario describe nature as a place where they connect spiritually with themselves and the world around them.”

Already, the benches are making a strong impression. Rev. Michael Robinson, another Spiritual Care Provider at the Health Sciences Centre said that one comment in particular struck him.

“During one of our sessions, a patient told me that the benches made the chapel more spiritual, whereas before with the couches it was simply a comfortable, quiet sitting area. That comment touched me – this is supposed to be a space to encourage people to tend to their spiritual selves, no matter what faith they hold.”

The benches flip down flush against the wall when needed, opening up the space in a way that couldn’t be done before. That’s especially important for larger groups, said Trina Diner, Manager of Palliative Care and Telemedicine at the Health Sciences Centre.

“Lisa and Michael recognized that there was a need to better use the space,” Diner said. “Many smudging ceremonies take place here, which are done in a circle, but it was difficult to accommodate larger groups with the furniture taking up most of the room.”

Only about 10 people at a time could attend smudging ceremonies before, but with the new fold-down benches, the space can hold about twice as many.

As the name implies, the Multi-Faith Centre is available to people of all religions as well as those without an identifiable faith background. It is located on the 2nd floor next to the main staircase and is open 24/7 for patients, visitors, and staff. Items such as smudging bundles, Bibles and other religious texts, prayer rugs, and a piano are available for use in the chapel.

“It’s here for anyone who wants a quiet, reflective spot,” Laitinen-Egbuchulam said.

The Multi-Faith Centre is just one part of the Spiritual and Religious Care services available at the Health Sciences Centre. Laitinen-Egbuchulam and Robinson provide spiritual and emotional support for patients and family members who are facing illness, death, or the loss of a loved one. They took special training including psychotherapy training in order to give people whatever support they need. Both lead ceremonies within the Multi-Faith Centre, provide beside care for inpatients and their families, and provide counselling in their offices.

You can help support projects like this that have such a large impact on patient and family care at the Health Sciences Centre. To learn more and to make a donation to the Family CARE Grant program, please visit us at or call the Donation Centre directly at (807) 345-4673.

Thank you!

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