People & Community
B A K E R S F I E L D M AT T E R S
By Lisa Kimble
PHOTO BY CASEY CHRISTIE
Hospital’s chapel dedicated to revered local priest Memorial gives sanctuary new lease on life
During prayer at the Memorial Hospital dedication of a new interfaith chapel, all those involved held hands representing different faiths in the community. It was named the Monsignor Craig F. Harrison Interfaith Chapel.
critical area inside Bakersfield Memorial Hospital has a new lease on life. It’s chapel, where people in their darkest hours and sick with worry for loved ones have sought solace, had become dated, musty and depressing. As vital and important as the space was, it was never at the top capital improvement lists, however. Two and a half years ago, when the hospital finally took steps to revamp the sanctuary, the effort gained major momentum and funding when administrator Robin Mangarin Scott and Tuesdy Small thought it fitting to name the updated chapel in honor of the man so many in the community have turned to for spiritual guidance – Monsignor Craig Harrison. Tuesdy and her husband, Kevin, who donated the funds for the Lauren Small Children’s Medical Center at Memorial, spent countless hours in hospital chapels, including Memorial’s, as their daughter, who lost her battle with cancer in 2005, fought for her life. Much of that time was spent with Harrison, a family friend and pastor. “It seemed very appropriate as Father Craig
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spends a lot of time at that hospital,” Tuesdy said. “Beloved” is a word used often to describe Harrison, who was born at Memorial. When he returned to his hometown to oversee his childhood parish, St. Francis Church, his flock multiplied. Today, it is the largest in Kern County. His charismatic way has drawn thousands, like the Smalls, through his church doors. Many believe the renaming was long overdue. Harrison learned of the idea just days after his mother’s death. He’d buried his father six months earlier. “I thought, at first, ‘I’m not even dead yet,’” he recalled with a laugh. “I was honored and humbled. People need a place to go and just be. I have sat with hundreds of families there, and I remember it was always so dark and I wanted to take families out into the parking lot.” Tuesdy reached out to prospective donors, eventually 99, including local philanthropist Marj Nixon, who suggested large inscribed tiles on one wall. There are 35 of them. Two years and $176, 298 later, the Monsignor Craig F. Harrison Interfaith Chapel at Bakersfield Memorial will be officially dedicated Monday.
wooden, moveable pews. “This has a lot of Outside, an open-air meaning. In my heart, this is more a dedication to my serenity garden enclosed by three walls features a parents. I owe my priestwater fountain, donated by hood to them,” he said of Harrison’s friend Diane Don and Dorothy HarriLake in memory of her late son, well known in the daughter. Another wall reccommunity. “I see this ognizes Memorial’s first ecumenical space as the pastor and another muchcrowning glory to my loved clergyman – Revpriesthood because, above erend Glenn Puder, pastor all else, my mother always stressed the importance of for many years at First Presbyterian Church having respect for all faith downtown. traditions.” Open around the The 960-square-foot clock, the sacred space has chapel is light, airy and also become a quiet place sounds echo off the hardfor employees. wood floor as if one is “Our clinical staff see walking into a church. the range of human experiSome of the donor tiles ences and they are also include Bible verses and affected and touched by inspirational sayings from that,” said hospital Vice other sects. There is an alcove with two kneelers in President for Philanthropy Sue Benham. front of a small tabernacle. “As a Catholic, the Another wall displays month of May is dedicated prayer cards from Sikh, to our Blessed Mother,” Jewish, Zen and Native Harrison said, recalling his American traditions, to mother and the timelines name a few. A corner, of the dedication. “I know stage-like area serves as a healing will take place in nondenominational altar this space full with a backlit of light and stained glass hope.” panel, created by renowned Judson O pinions Studios in Los expressed in Angeles and comthiscolum n missioned by the are those of Wheeler Family. Lisa Kim ble. There are 12 Lisa Kimble