Chaplain Lisa Gaye: Tending to Spiritual Needs in New Orleans

Oct 29, 2019

By Bishop Mike Rinehart


Pastor Lisa Gaye

Pastor Lisa Gaye used to serve St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Metairie, a suburb northwest of New Orleans, on Lake Ponchartrain. Now she serves a diverse group of people at Oschner Medical Center’s main campus a little over a mile away. Her work there is primarily in three areas of the hospital:

The Pediatric Unit
Pediatric Intensive Care
Pediatric Emergency


This is challenging and soulful work, more with the parents than with the patients, most of whom are infants. Chaplain Gaye has worked here one year, along with five other resident chaplains, who together provide 24-7 coverage. Oschner also has ten CPE students and four CPE residents.

mapFounded in 1942, Oschner Medical Center is one of 25 Oschner Medical Centers in Louisiana. With the acquisition of a hospital in Lafayette, LA, Oschner is the largest hospital system in Louisiana.

As we walked the corridors of the 11-floor Oschner, we bumped into Jesse the therapy dog and Greta his owner. Hospital doctors, nurses and other employees stopped to pet and get some therapy from Jesse, who roams from room to room, giving and receiving love.

We step into a room where we encounter a mother holding the hand of a 3-month old infant with a heart condition named Katie. Katie has already had two heart surgeries. Chaplin Lisa greets the mom and baby by name. Clearly she has been in this room before. After a little conversation about the surgeries and an upcoming echocardiogram, Lisa anoints the child with oil and prays for the child and family with the laying on of hands. It is a soulful moment laden with an acknowledgement of the weight of the situation.

Lisa Gaye 2Lisa has performed emergency baptisms and has accompanied families through that greatest of all griefs, the death of a child.

“They don’t recommend we wear a collar,” Lisa tells me. “It creates a barrier since we are called to serve people of all denominations and even all faiths.” Not everyone can do that, but because of our focus on grace, we can.

Lisa 3When visiting Muslim patients, she always walks through the door with a prayer rug. “It opens doors.” This is a deep kindness. “We give it to them as a gift.” It’s one thing to bring a prayer rug. It’s another to bring a beautiful prayer rug, and then gift it to the patient. “They always cry.” We are a people of prayer. So are they. It is something we have in common.

“We give rosaries to all the Catholics.” 50-60% of those in Oschner’s emergency room are Catholic, in this heavily Roman Catholic city.

Chaplains carry out a different kind of ministry than parish pastors. There are some similarities, but also does significant departures. The next time you make a hospital visit, stop by the chaplain’s office and offer a warm word of thanks.