Our Stories: Healing mind, body and spirit

Tasneem Freddy

Sacred places come in many forms – a majestic cathedral, an ancient temple, or even a converted conference room on the second floor of Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Ore.

With silk prayer rugs, holy books and an arrow pointing to Mecca, this small room is more than a place of worship for Muslims – it’s a symbol that healing the sick involves nurturing the soul.

“For a patient or family to have a Quran is an extraordinary comfort,” says hospital chaplain Christine Wallace.

Since establishing the prayer room in 2006, Wallace has worked with Tasneem Rahman of Somalia, Father Freddy Ocun, director of Pastoral Care at Providence St. Vincent (both picture above), Imam Muhammad Najieb and Sister Lynda Thompson, SNJM, director of Mission Integration at the hospital, to foster interfaith understanding.

In 2011 they offered a seminar on cultural differences, explaining that Muslims may interpret a doctor’s suggestion as an order; that women’s health care requires extra sensitivity; and that gesturing with a finger may be considered disrespectful.

Now, the imam visits hospitalized patients weekly. Muslim women bring aromatic dishes for hospitalized loved ones – and nurses gratefully share the meals. And when daily calls to prayer come, Muslim worshippers will make their way the sacred prayer room created just for them.