Cancer battle inspires Aberdeen woman to become chaplain

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) — An Aberdeen woman discovered a new career path while undergoing treatment for breast cancer in 1997.

Deb Barnett told The American News ( that the secretary of radiation oncology at Avera Medical Group encouraged her to look into pastoral care because of her positive interactions with other patients.

She became a chaplain with Avera St. Luke’s Hospital in 1999. Two years later, when the chaplain at Avera Mother Joseph Manor Retirement Community was going to retire, it was decided Avera chaplains would have six-month terms to cover the facility.

Barnett wasn’t enthusiastic at first about the possible assignment.

“We were going to take turns. I said I wasn’t going to come to the nursing home, but I did and I fell in love,” she said.

After her rotation at Mother Joseph was over, she decided she wanted to continue leading pastoral services at the nursing home. Barnett said she enjoys doing ministry work with an older crowd.

“You are with people who have been there, done that. They’re very smart and they love to share their spirituality,” Barnett said. “They are so appreciative in seeing you and happy with anything you do.”

More and more people have spent time in the chapel with Barnett at the helm, she said. Now, she said the chapel is full every Sunday.

Barnett said pastoral services aren’t a job, but rather a calling for her. She said she there’s to make people “comfortable when it’s their time to go.”

“I try to help them get ready for their heavenly home,” she said. “It’s joyful because I know where they are going.”


Information from: Aberdeen American News,

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