Via social media, Simona Shuman ’22 supports chaplains on the front lines of coronavirus

a woman in prayerPhoto/Getty Images

A woman in prayer

There’s nothing like a life-and-death pandemic to give new meaning to one’s studies and interests.

Simona Shuman ’22, a sociology major, is working with professor Wendy Cadge on the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab (CIL), a venture Cadge started in 2018 to support research and teaching about spiritual care in a range of settings.

CIL is hosting weekly webinars and academic panels for chaplains on the pandemic’s front lines, and Shuman helps manage the lab’s social media channels, which have been buzzing with questions, comments and well-wishes from chaplains around the world.

“At first, I felt like my job with CIL was just something nice to do, but coronavirus has changed my point of view,” said Shuman, who is from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “When I see the messages we receive on Facebook and Twitter from chaplains who need help or are just reaching out to say thank you, I see what an impact our work truly makes.”

“Chaplains are present for others in a special way,” Shuman added. “They’re seeking out our lab’s material, which gives them new perspectives on helping others deal with death. I think my contributions have been more important during the past few weeks.”

Simona Shuman
Photo/Simona Shuman

Simona Shuman '22

Cadge, an expert in chaplaincy, sacred spaces and the impact of social change on religious life, says hundreds of chaplains are joining CIL webinars and panels each day. CIL’s platform and growing network of research collaborators has also enabled Cadge to help hospitals find temporary volunteer chaplains and meet demand.

“I would say 90 percent of what hospitals are asking for from chaplains is staff support,” Cadge said. “But there’s still a wide range of needs. Hospitals want interfaith chaplains with experience in disaster care, trauma and mass casualty events.”

Whether chaplains connect with CIL through the webinars or on social media, nearly all are looking for new ways to conduct their work in an environment where people afflicted with coronavirus are barred from physical contact with others. 

Shuman is currently the youngest person involved with CIL, but has the responsibility of being the person behind the avatar. She says she is inspired by the way the lab has brought research and resources together for those on the front lines and is happy to play a part in disseminating information online.

“The lab does quite a lot, between the resources and training we provide,” Shuman said. “We have private groups on Facebook as well that were created specifically because of this pandemic, and chaplains all around the world have been using it to connect.”

“It’s very fulfilling to help others on a scale like this,” she added. “Especially in this time, when you can directly see the good our work does.”

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