Tosa resident Steve Stern has always been a quiet man who enjoys listening to what people have to say, so it was only natural that after a 19-year career as a parish minister, he took a position as hospital chaplain in Froedtert Hospital's Clinical Cancer Center.
For the last 24 years, Stern, 65, has spent part of his week ministering to people who have been diagnosed with a serious illness. At Froedtert, he listens to people as they work through their feelings and questions about a life-changing event, such as a cancer diagnosis. Often, the medical crisis is a starting point for further spiritual exploration, Stern said.
"Cancer is a big attention getter - it really gets a person's interest. We see a lot of people here in medical crises, and as you start talking to them you learn other things about them, perhaps they have broken relationships and express interest in getting things patched up," he said. "The medical event spurs interest in other parts of their lives."
He is the author of two self-published books, "Lost and Found" and "Safe Harbor" which share stories of comfort and the wisdom gleaned from his years as an oncology chaplain.
He relies on his colleagues at Froedtert, as well as Jean, his wife of 43 years, to help quell the stress of working with terminally ill patients and their families. He also tries to stay active and exercise.
Stern said the greatest challenge - and reward - of his job is to be a good listener, and refrain from quick judgment. Everyone is valuable and significant, he said.
"Eventually you come to a point in the conversation where people empty themselves and there's that silence, and at that point you can interject some questions. That starts to get people some ideas on what they want to do about the path they have found themselves on, where they want to go," he said. "There is a sacred aspect to listening. Sometimes you have a conversation with someone and you feel a larger presence there. That's pretty incredible."
To learn more about Stern's books visit chaplainstevestern.com.
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Just the Facts
NAME: Steve Stern
FAMILY: Married with four grown children
NOTED FOR: being an oncology chaplain; author of two books
STEVE'S PEARL OF WISDOM: "There is a sacred aspect to listening. Sometimes you have a conversation with someone and you feel a larger presence there. That's pretty incredible."
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