Author Archives: Sig Spirituality

DID YOU KNOW . . . Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year)

Tonight begins the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which begins at sunset this evening, September 13th, and ends on at sunset on September 14th.

In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, “head of the year” or “first of the year” and is commonly known as the Jewish New Year.  The holiday is a solemn one and is a time of introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year, similar to the secular “New Year’s Resolutions” so many make every January 1st.

Rosh Hashanah is linked to the Day of Atonement holiday, Yom Kippur, which takes place 10 days later. These two days, and the days in between, are known as the Days of Awe or the Days of Repentance and are meant to mark a time of repentance and reconciliation.

The holiday was instituted in Leviticus 23:24-25 and Jews believe that Rosh Hashanah represents, either figuratively or literally, the creation of the World or the Universe. In Jewish liturgy Rosh Hashanah is described as “the day of judgment” and “the day of remembrance”. Some early Midrashic descriptions (the Midrash is a series of early homiletic-style commentaries) depict God as sitting upon a throne, while books containing the deeds of all humanity are opened for review, and each person passing in front of Him for evaluation of his or her deeds.

No work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah. Much of the day is spent in synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded. In fact, there is a special prayer book called the Machzor used for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because of the extensive liturgical changes for these holidays. One of the most important liturgical practices associated with this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue. The shofar is a ram’s horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet and is blown at four particular occasions in the prayers on Rosh Hashanah.

The ritual of tashlikh is performed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Prayers are recited near natural flowing water, and one’s sins are symbolically cast into the water. Many also have the custom to throw bread or pebbles into the water, to symbolize the “casting off” of sins. The traditional service for tashlikh is recited individually and includes the prayer “Who is like unto you, O God…And You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea”, and Biblical passages including Isaiah 11:9 (“They will not injure nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”) and Psalms 118:5-9, 121 and 130, as well as personal prayers. Though once considered a solemn individual tradition, it has become an increasingly social group ceremony for many communities.

Another popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of a wish for a sweet new year. Bread is also dipped in honey (instead of the usual practice of sprinkling salt on it) at this time of year for the same reason.


Spirituality Activated Solutions – Multiple Clinical Issue Improvement Program


Based on goal setting accomplished this year with facility administrators, the Spirituality Pillar is developing and piloting new programming to further address specific needs in our facilities.

Faced with multiple needs on multiple fronts at once, Clarksville chaplain Charles Thornburg decided, with support and input from both his administrator and the clinical team, to study the use of the new and promising Music & Memory program in an attempt to positively affect several clinical issues at once, specifically depression, falls, antipsychotic medication usage and behavior issues, particularly in dementia patients.

Music & Memory is a program which creates personalized music playlists especially for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients in an attempt to increase communication, activity and improve quality of life for both the patients as well as for those who care for them. Chaplain Charles’ study takes this concept to the next level by attempting to quantify the beneficial results of this program into broader clinical areas in order to further show expanded practical applicability towards clinical and operational indicators. This is done in the hopes of better proving the broader efficacy of this new low cost, non-pharmacological treatment option for so many in need.

Early results from the original test group of 7 residents were so encouraging that the program has been expanded to include 15 more.  So far all the participants have had no falls (all were at risk), are all maintaining their weight levels (personalized music is being played for them during meal times), and every one of them have seen significant reductions in their behavior issues, especially in outbursts and anxiety.

The full details of the case study can be found at


DID YOU KNOW . . . Labor Day

Today is the observance of Labor Day is the United States, a federal holiday that occurs on the first Monday in September and which celebrates the building of a nation upon the prospect of achievement and the contributions of the efforts of so many to create an engine of prosperity that has been enjoyed by so many.

The first big Labor Day in the United States was observed on September 5, 1882, by the Central Labor Union of New York. It was first proposed by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor in May 1882, after witnessing the annual labor festival held in Toronto, Canada. By the time it became a federal holiday in 1894, thirty states officially celebrated Labor Day.

Following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland reconciled with the labor movement. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. The September date was chosen by the CLU of New York and observed by many of the nation’s trade unions.

All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories have made it a statutory holiday.

Labor Day has come to be celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer. In many social circles, Labor Day is often considered the last day of the year when it is fashionable to wear white.


Spirituality Activated Solutions – Nursing Stability Improvement Program


Based on goal setting accomplished this year with facility administrators, the Spirituality Pillar is developing and piloting new programming to further address specific needs in our facilities.

Marking the need for increased nursing stability at the Erin, TN facility, long-time chaplain David Steppee conducted a study designed to measure the effectiveness on this critical metric of concentrated and targeted efforts on the part of the chaplain to affect real and significant change for the better.

With the support of the administrator and the human resources department, Chaplain David began taking a greater part in every new hire’s orientation, as well as  performing specific, engagement-oriented regular visits with not only the new stakeholders, but also with those deemed most in need by the DON and the other Department Heads.

By close partnering with a new HR director, and in the midst of a major staffing shortage in their small, rural area, Chaplain David was able to significantly move the needle upward on nursing stability over the 90 day period of study. This was due in no small part by providing increased recognition of top performers in providing care, as well as by what David describes as “making a greater attempt to make the new hires feel warm, welcome, and most of all, prepared.”

The full details of the case study can be found at



Signature Chaplains First Cluster Meeting of 2015 – July 21 and 22, 2015

“This past week saw the first of the 2015 Chaplain Cluster Meetings . . . and the Spirit was indeed present at the event!

Some comments from the attendees . . . .

“Don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel I’ve gone to the well and drawn what I needed.  Thanks to everyone for sharing your spirit.”
Mark Mills, Chaplain, Signature Healthcare of Warren

“Thank you all exceptional people for exceptional experience in Ohio.  I have been around the chaplain block a few years, but never worked with such an anointed leadership team and a wonderful organization as  Signature HealthCare. Dianne T, Carol H, David E, Tim H as well as our cluster (IN/OH), I am blessed to know you, and re-energized to serve for His glory. We are all in the winner team! Once more, merci boku, gracias, sosongo and whatever the language, my heart says: thank you.”
– Ani Ikene, Chaplain, SHC of South Bend

“What a great time I had at our cluster meeting this week. Just wanted to say thanks to all of you who I met for the first time it was truly a pleasure. God bless your works in Indiana, and to we Ohio Chaplains it is always great to be with you as well. My prayers are with each of you and I covet your prayers as well. Love to all of you.”
                – Dallas E. Waggle, Chaplain, Signature HealthCARE of Galion

“Loved meeting all of you from Indy and to rekindle support and care from the Ohio group. LaKeya, continue to pass out those trays – I’m right there with you. And to the winners of the tower building – congrats but we will take you down next time.”
               – Mark E. Brodbeck, Chaplain Signature HealthCARE Coshocton

IN-OH 2015 Cluster mtg



Spirituality Activated Solutions – Chaplain Non-Pharmacological Intervention Program

CHAPLAIN SOLUTIONS BOX - non pharmacological intervention

Based on goal setting accomplished this year with facility administrators, the Spirituality Pillar is developing and piloting new programming to further address specific needs in our facilities.

One of the most promising and versatile programs being piloted by the Spirituality Department in multiple locations is called “Music & Memory”.

MUSIC & MEMORY℠ is a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life. Through partnership with chaplains in our facilities, staff and other elder care professionals, as well as family caregivers, are trained in creating and providing personalized playlists using iPods and related digital audio systems that enable those struggling with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive and physical challenges to reconnect with the world through music-triggered memories.

In an attempt to link this program’s potential with wider interdisciplinary processes, Chaplain Tom Davis at Memphis ran a recent study in an attempt to show that individually selected music could be used as a low cost, non‐drug related therapy for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. This study was able to show that this personalized effective care was able to lead to significant positive results in a variety of areas, particularly in ability and willingness to communicate for residents diagnosed with Vascular Dementia.

The program was designed and evaluated via case study in full partnership with both the Clinical and Social Services Department there at Memphis.

The full details of the case study can be found at







DID YOU KNOW . . . Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, a federal holiday observed annually in the United States on the last Monday of May for remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. On this day especially, many people visit cemeteries and memorials and many volunteers place an American flag on graves in national cemeteries.

Formerly known as Decoration Day, this holiday originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. Southern ladies organizations and many southern schoolchildren also decorated Confederate graves during the period immediately following the Civil War, and while there was great diversity in the practices by region, most of these dates were observed in May.

The preferred name for the holiday gradually changed from “Decoration Day” to “Memorial Day”, which was first used in 1882. It did not become more common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967. On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971.

For many Americans, the central event is attending one of the thousands of parades held on Memorial Day in large and small cities all over the country. Most of these feature marching bands and an overall military theme with the National Guard and other servicemen participating along with veterans and military vehicles from various wars.



DID YOU KNOW . . . Visakha Puja (Buddhism)

Today is the celebration of Visakha Puja or Vesakha Day – the annual Buddhist holiday also colloquially referred to as ‘Buddha’s Birthday’. It celebrates the three important events that occurred in Buddha’s life – his birth, the day he achieved enlightenment (Nirvana) and the day he passed away, at age eighty. The day is generally celebrated on the full moon of the sixth lunar month, which falls typically in May or June of each year.  

On this day, Buddhists will traditionally visit their temples where they will participate in activities that may include singing hymns for the Buddha himself, for the Dharma (his teachings) and for the Sangha (his disciples). Many will also listen to the Buddha’s teachings by attending readings of Buddhist scriptures or by taking part in a candle lighting ceremony or procession in the evening. Devotees may also leave offerings of flowers, incense and lights  and in some temples there may be a small statue of the Buddha in the front, in a basin of water which allows devotees to pour water over the statue, as a symbol of spiritual cleansing.

Most Buddhists try and pay homage on this day reaffirming their commitment to truly and sincerely follow the Buddha’s teachings by leading noble lives and practicing loving kindness that will bring peace and harmony to humanity.

(Special thanks to Interfaith Paths to Peace for contributions to this article.)



DID YOU KNOW . . . Yom Ha Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)

Tonight at sundown begins Yom Ha Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), a Jewish day of remembrance.

Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laGvura (“Remembrance Day for the Holocaust and Heroism”), known colloquially in Israel and abroad as Yom Ha Shoah and in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day, is observed as a day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.  In Israel, it is a national memorial day. 

On the eve of Yom HaShoah in Israel, there is a state ceremony at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Authority.  At sundown and once again at 11:00 am the next day throughout all of Israel air-raid sirens are sounded for two minutes. During this time, people stop what they are doing and stand at attention; cars stop, even on the highways; and the whole country comes to a standstill as people pay silent tribute to the dead.  Flags on public buildings are flown at half-staff.  Commemorations outside of Israel range from synagogue services to communal vigils and educational programs.

Many people in the United States observe Yom Hashoah, which is also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day. It commemorates the lives and heroism of Jewish people who died in the Holocaust between 1933 and 1945. Many people in the United States, including those with Jewish ancestry or connections, observe Yom Hashoah on the 27th day of the month of Nisan. Many Jewish communities hold commemorative ceremonies or events to remember Holocaust victims who died during World War II. Activities may include lighting memorial candles and reciting the Kaddish, which is a prayer for the departed.



DID YOU KNOW . . . Easter (Eastern/ Orthodox Celebration)

Today marks the celebration of Easter in Orthodox Christianity.

Eastern Christianity bases its calculations for the date for Easter on the Julian calendar in which the celebration of Easter falls between 4 April and 8 May annually. In Eastern Christianity, every other religious festival in their calendar, including Christmas, is considered to be secondary in importance to the celebration of the Easter.

In Eastern Christianity, the spiritual preparation for Easter begins with Great Lent, which starts on Clean Monday and lasts for 40 continuous days (including Sundays). The last week of Great Lent (following the fifth Sunday of Great Lent) is called Palm Week, and ends with the day before which is called Lazarus Saturday. The Vespers which begins Lazarus Saturday officially brings Great Lent to a close, although the fast continues through the following week. After Lazarus Saturday comes Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and finally Easter itself, and the fast is broken immediately after the Paschal Divine Liturgy.

The Paschal Vigil begins with the Midnight Office, which is the last service of the Lenten Triodion and is timed so that it ends a little before midnight on Holy Saturday night. At the stroke of midnight the celebration itself begins, guaranteeing that no Divine Liturgy will come earlier in the morning, ensuring its place as the pre-eminent “Feast of Feasts” in the liturgical year.