Calling of a lifetime

Former chaplains donate to Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center

When Fran Salone-Pelletier and her husband Jean Pelletier moved to Shallotte, North Carolina in 1987, they thought they were going to enjoy the quiet life. Jean was a Roman Catholic priest who left active ministry to marry. Fran had enjoyed a career as a professional religious educator. Little did they know, their ministerial journey was far from finished.

“There were all kinds of signs,” Fran said. “It was as if God said, ‘I don’t want you to be quiet little mice in my church. I want you to be ministers in my church in any way you can.’ And so we were. The ministerial sense was so deep in both of us.”

Shortly after they moved to the area, Jean volunteered at a local hospice center, but once the hospice staff got to know his background and experience, they had an epiphany.

“They said, ‘Wait a minute, we need you. You’re not going to volunteer. We want to hire you.’” Fran recalled. “So, Jean started working there as a chaplain and bereavement counselor.”

Soon, Fran was busy, too, teaching religion courses again at Brunswick Community College. Before long, they found a new vocation that sustained them for three decades. They both joined the team at what is now Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center as volunteer chaplains around 1990.

Hospital chaplains minister to patients and families in emotional, sometimes traumatic circumstances. For the Pelletiers, one of those moments was the Ocean Isle Beach house fire in 2007, which claimed the lives of seven college students. Fran remembers when she was there for families and how devastated they were.

“There was nothing anyone could do,” Fran said. “There was no consolation to obtain. That was the time when I really understood the power of chaplaincy as attentive, connected presence and that’s it. You can’t change what happened. You can’t make it go away. And there’s nothing that you can say that will ease the pain. You just have to be there and share it.”

Fran also knows what it’s like to be a patient struggling with an illness. In 2009, she grew very sick and didn’t know what was happening. Her condition worsened until eventually, her colon burst. Fran had her colon removed and today, she has an ileostomy. She is grateful for the care she’s received at Novant Health over the years.

“I can only speak with praise,” Fran said. “Everybody in the entire facility has been kind, compassionate, caring, efficient and knowledgeable. It goes right down the list.”

Today, the Pelletiers continue to stay active in their ministry. Jean provides spiritual direction and bereavement counseling, and Fran performs discussion-based facilitating. Fran also is a contributor to Today’s American Catholic and she has served as religion columnist for the Brunswick Beacon for more than 15 years.

“The editor of the Beacon called to ask me if I would like to write for the paper,” Fran said. “I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. I’ll give it a whirl.’ I like writing. It’s been 18 years now and I’m still doing it.”

Because the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated changes to the volunteer chaplaincy program, the Pelletiers have been unable to continue their ministry, but that hasn’t prevented them from staying involved. Recently, the Pelletiers made a gift to support the behavioral health campaign at Brunswick Medical Center. The campaign seeks to provide five beds for the emergency department dedicated to behavioral health, transportation for behavioral health patients to inpatient facilities across North Carolina and expanded telehealth and telepsychiatry services for public schools.

The chapel was dedicated in honor of their three decades of service. To the Pelletiers, making a difference in behavioral health in their community was a priority.  

“We chose to give to the work Brunswick Medical Center is doing to treat behavioral health patients because it’s a serious issue,” Fran said. “We felt there was a great need in this county, from drug addiction to post-traumatic support for veterans and others.”

For the couple, donating to the hospital was natural to do, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My husband is a priest through and through,” Fran said. “He always says, ‘If we have money, we’re supposed to give it away.”

Now is your chance.

Today, you have the opportunity to help individuals in your community. With a gift to Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center Foundation, you can support behavioral programs to provide others with comfort and peace of mind. Make your gift now.

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