Walk into Advocate Lutheran General Hospital with Passionist priest Fr. Frank Keenan, and you’re immediately surrounded by a chorus of enthusiastic greetings, “Hi, Fr. Frank!”
From the hospital receptionist to the security guard, from the maintenance man to the residents and nurses, it seems there isn’t a soul who doesn’t know and appreciate this hospital chaplain.
It’s the patients, of course, that bring Fr. Frank to the hospital five days a week. Bruised or broken, frightened, hurting, filled with care and concern, Fr. Frank reaches out to these patients and their families with warmth, compassion and understanding when he makes his daily rounds to give Communion or share some conversation.
“In a hospital, where over 70% of people in our country pass away, Christ’s Passion is ever present in the distress of the poor, in the mental, emotional and financial agonies that are suffered, in the sweat of real blood. Our vocation as Passionists is to share in the distress of all, to offer them comfort, and to relieve the burden of their sorrow,” says Fr. Frank of his ministry.
A Tradition of Compassion
Fr. Frank has been a chaplain at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital for over 32 years. He has ministered to literally thousands of people: held their hands in the emergency room, heard their final confessions, shared their grief when they were ill and their joy when they got well, blessed their babies newly born and their children passing away. He has listened and he has responded from a wellspring of experience, faith, and tremendous love.
The Passionist charism, which recalls the overwhelming love and compassion in the suffering of Jesus, is an especially powerful spiritual message in an environment where the breadth of life plays out each and every day. St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists, was himself a minister to the sick in hospitals of his time, so Fr. Frank is carrying on a rich Passionist tradition.
After so many years of serving the hospital community, there are generations of families now whose lives have been touched by Fr. Frank. The Passionist charism is truly a gift of healing that is there for all. The young woman at the front desk of the hospital sums up Fr. Frank’s ministry in a sentence. “Catholic or not, Fr. Frank ministers to everybody at the hospital who is in need.” And then she adds with a heartfelt smile, “He’s just amazing.”