Edwin Robinson was presented the Sharing in Mission Award for his work as director of pastoral care at St. Cabrini Nursing Home in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.Michael Harlan and Neil O’Connell represented the Province at the award ceremony on May 4. This article is about Edwin’s work there.
A distinction of the Franciscan order is that it has no single ministry. During his many years as a Franciscan priest, Edwin Robinson has been a teacher, a prison chaplain, a parish priest, a certified home health aide, a scholar, a university chaplain, and director of pastoral care at St. Cabrini Nursing Home. But a single syllable word affectionately uttered by a resident reveals another beloved, but unofficial, role he plays in the eyes of the many residents, staff and families who have come to know him. “I call him my friend,” Eileen Cunningham declared.
This simple sentence succinctly communicates the all enveloping humanity that is the essence of Edwin. “He’s never a man who is hidden behind his vestments,” said one department head of the aura of accessibility that surrounds him.
“The real dynamic of fostering spirituality has to go on in the encounter with the person,” Edwin said.
It’s an attitude that has made Edwin an embodiment of person-centered care during his eight years in Dobbs Ferry.
“He’s so aware of the dignity of each person. He doesn’t see the residents as people in a nursing home, but as individuals,” said Assistant Administrator and Social Services Director Susan Trank.
Much of his flock is cognitively, visually or hearing impaired, but the homilies Edwin prepares for each daily Mass never fail to connect with his diverse congregation.
In the collaborative spirit of person-centered care, he believes that pastoral care is an important part of basic care, and under his tenure the department has become a formal, much valued part of the care planning process. It’s an approach he imparts both in words and by example to his chaplains.
“He learns as much as he can about each resident, so we can better help them,” said Sister Maryanne Calabrese.
Trank noted a number of instances when the attentive observations which Edwin encourages in his staff, whether in administering Communion or in offering a sympathetic ear, have revealed insights that enhanced a resident’s care.
With his gentle yet supportive spirit, Edwin has earned a reputation for bringing out the best in individuals. As one of his staff noted, “He’s really called forth my gifts.”
An openness toward his own imperfections are part of Edwin’s humanity. “He’s always trying to hit a higher mark,” said Chaplain Rosemary Parandelis. “He’s constantly studying to be a better chaplain.”
Edwin’s respect for the uniqueness of each person extends to his or her religious expressions. “Spirituality is an awareness of something beyond yourself,” he has said. “How it works out in each person’s life varies.” His sensitive references to the Koran at a Catholic resident’s memorial Mass added solace to her grieving Muslim spouse, and he adeptly performed readings in Hebrew when a resident’s spouse insisted that Edwin lead the anniversary celebration for their Jewish wedding.
Edwin reads the Bible in Greek and Latin in addition to Hebrew and English, and his three post-graduate degrees include ones in Semitic languages and biblical studies. He did his seminary training at Franciscan Home of Studies in Great Britain. Yet the native of that country who grew up in Australia is a scholar without pretense, whose Aussie wit supplements his other spirit-lifting gifts.
“He is so smart yet funny and regular,” said Artie Mayer, who, with his mother, Rosemary Mayer, enjoys attending his Masses. “I can’t say enough about him.”
Neither can others at St. Cabrini, whose words of admiration are endless: loyal, faithful, approachable, loving, inspiring, amazing, sensitive, compassionate, a great listener, outgoing, cheerful, supportive, understanding and humble are some of their words of praise. Edwin is a man you can always go to with a problem, more than one said. “He’s the most wonderful person I have ever ministered with,” said another.
“During my 40 years of nursing home experience,” said Pat Krasnausky, the CEO of the home, “I have never encountered a chaplain more dedicated to his flock and more loved by them than is Father Edwin. He’s a treasure whom we cherish.”
These and more are all part of the package of this friend who is SCNH Pastoral Care Director Fr. Edwin Robinson, OFM. But the bottom line, in the words of Mayer, “is he’s such a good, holy priest.”