St. Jude Hospice gains Catholic approval from Diocese of Phoenix

Fr. Michael Accinni Reinhardt administers the anointing of the sick to John Orsini, whose health has improved dramatically since he began receiving care from St. Jude Hospice early this year. Fr. Accinni Reinhardt is their fulltime chaplain. (J.D. Long-Garcia/CATHOLIC SUN)

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted has granted St. Jude Hospice based in Clive, Iowa permission to identify itself as a Catholic institution. The organization delivers hospice care in Arizona, California and a smattering of Midwest states.

The bishop gave St. Jude Hospice a one-year period of approval in a Sept. 10 letter based on a recommendation from the Phoenix Diocese’s medical ethics board after a review of the company’s policies and practices. St. Jude Hospice can reapply in one year and will be subject to ongoing evaluation.

Tom Moreland, CEO of St. Jude, said securing the Catholic designation was of the utmost importance to him.

“I’m looking at what I would want if I were in hospice, and that’s what I want to give people,” Moreland said. “As a Catholic myself… I want to be cared for by somebody’s that’s going to be able to give me the sacraments… and that I’m not going to be euthanized by a renegade nurse or a doc who may feel that it’s more compassionate to put me out of my suffering. I want a hospice that understands the redemptive suffering of Christ.”

Moreland, who holds a master’s degree in health services administration, spent two summers volunteering and praying alongside the Missionaries of Charity in a San Francisco hospice for AIDS patients. He came away from the experience deeply affected and knew that he wanted to spend his life caring for the dying.

“It really hit me, not only reading about Mother Teresa, but watching the sisters care for the dying as if they were Christ Himself,” Moreland said. “For me, I easily see Christ in the dying.”

Fr. Michael Accinni Reinhardt serves as chaplain of St. Jude Hospice. He and Moreland are both seeking certification in Catholic health care ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia and recently returned from a seminar.

“It’s important for Catholics in particular to choose a Catholic health care provider, whether it be in health care services or in hospice care,” Fr. Accinni Reinhardt said, “because it’s important for them to be cared for with regard and respect for the dignity of the human person.”

“All our staff have been trained in the [Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare],” Moreland said. “We take them very, very seriously. Every medication — and everything that goes through the door — is looked over very carefully.”

Fr. Accinni Reinhardt said that, keeping with Moreland’s vision, St. Jude Healthcare derives inspiration from the work of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

“We meet people where they are,” Fr. Accinni Reinhardt said. “We are modeling after Mother Teresa, after her servant’s heart and that’s looking toward being able to meet people who are being called home.”

He said the first thing he does with patients who are being cared for by St. Jude Hospice is to make a spiritual assessment and come up with a custom spiritual care plan. Not every patient is Catholic, but each receives a brown scapular and rosary. He said he also prays the Divine Office and the Chaplet of St. Jude with patients.

“Obviously the sacramental life is the key,” Fr. Accinni Reinhardt said. That includes bringing the Eucharist on a frequent basis, hearing confessions and offering the anointing of the sick. The goal, he said, is that patients will die in peace.

Moreland said knowing that he and his staff are there for those who would otherwise die alone keeps him going. He is thankful, he said, to have his faith and work life deeply intertwined.

“I was very involved in my faith, so to be able to bring those two together on a daily basis — to be able to pray with my staff, to be able to have Mass at our meetings — I feel very blessed that my faith can be an integral part of my day at work,” Moreland said.

St. Jude Hospice

The Diocese of Phoenix has recognized St. Jude Hospice as a Catholic healthcare organization. St. Jude adheres to the U.S. bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives in caring for their patients.

Phone: (480) 821-8338

Web: stjudehospice.org