Rev. Msgr. Edmund J. Klimek
Senior Priest Chaplain
Sacred Heart Hospital
Eau Claire, Wis.
Msgr. Edmund Klimek was only 15 when his father died from cancer. Throughout his priestly formation, the experience of grieving this loss helped him discover the healing effects of empathy and compassion, characteristics that have marked his ministry throughout his 60 years as a priest.
In 1968, Msgr. Klimek became a priest chaplain at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire. His appointment coincided with the beginning of the pastoral care movement in Catholic health care. He became deeply involved at the state and national levels in promoting chaplaincy work to ensure the hospital chaplain is viewed as an integral part of the health care team. In 1972, he created the Pastoral Care Department at Sacred Heart. He was a passionate advocate for the Sisters and helped to ensure their recognition as chaplains by the newly formed National Association of Catholic Chaplains.
Crossing lines of faith, he worked with non-Catholic patients and their pastors, extending an ecumenical ministry that served the entire hospital population. To further that work, he developed the Night Chaplaincy program in 1974, bringing together clergy members from 30 different denominations to care for patients and families. That same year, recognizing the need to provide support to shut-ins, Msgr. Klimek developed the Triniteam, an outreach program that now extends to those in prison.
In 1977, he developed a cancer residency program for clergy, a three-day training program held twice a year for clergy of all faiths to improve counseling services to cancer patients. Understanding the importance of providing ongoing care to those who had lost loved ones, Msgr. Klimek lead the creation of “The Healing Place,” Sacred Heart’s free grief and bereavement center. Over his 45 years in hospital ministry, he has been at the bedside of thousands of patients at the moment of death. He readily says that he feels most needed when he journeys with the dying patient.
Daily he touches the lives of vulnerable individuals who come to him with personal concerns and problems. He offers compassion to patients, families, hospital staff, physicians and community members alike. Time after time, people describe how Msgr. Klimek turned their lives around by
offering a listening ear and heart. Through his generosity of spirit, he brings respite to the suffering, dignity to the disenfranchised and hope for the terminally ill and their families, ever mindful of doing so with the utmost fidelity to the mission of Jesus.