Cecelia Walker said she knows what it feels like to get up in the morning, believe it’s going to be a normal day and believe you’ll see your loved ones again at the end of it.
And she knows what it feels like for that not to happen.
Some years ago, her dad died. A few years later, her husband died, leaving her to raise their son. She remarried and had a daughter — who then died in a car accident at age 14. Then two years ago, Walker’s son died suddenly too.
“There’s this resident sadness that is in my life, but at the same time there’s this deep joy,” she said. “I know that being able to put one foot in front of the other is due to Him.”
That’s what drives Walker’s ministry these days as she serves as executive director of Brookwood Baptist Health’s pastoral care program for all five of their Baptist medical centers — Brookwood and Princeton in Birmingham; Shelby in Alabaster; Walker in Jasper; and Citizens in Talladega.
She also heads up the system’s Clinical Pastoral Education program at Princeton.
“I love being with people, and I want to be whatever support I can be,” Walker said.
Her faith has been important to her since she was a little girl.
Heart for serving
“My grandfathers both were Baptist pastors, as were uncles on both sides of my family,” said Walker, who grew up at First Missionary Baptist Church of East Thomas in Birmingham. “I have always loved God and being in church and everything I could to serve. I would sit at my grandfather’s feet and he would read the Bible to me. He said I was going to do great things for God.”
For years, she didn’t know exactly what that calling might look like. She got her undergraduate degree at Birmingham-Southern College and earned a master’s of divinity at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School.
Experience led the way
As she was nearing the end of her program there, she didn’t know what area of ministry she would serve. She remembered her father’s death in a local hospital.
“There was nobody there to support me and my mom,” Walker said. “To this day, it was traumatic.” So when her husband died a few years later in a different hospital, she was hesitant to go in and see him — she remembered how painful the experience had been.
“A chaplain came to be with me, and it was a really sacred time for me and my mother,” she said.
That’s when God’s call began to get clearer. So now Walker — who is also an associate minister at Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Birmingham and a member of the board of trustees at Samford — wants to provide similar care to others going through what she went through.
She went on to earn her doctorate of ministry from the ITC Morehouse School of Religion and CPE certification through the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education.
“I want to be there for people — if they want to pray, if they are angry and want to scream, to be able to be present and not judgmental and offer a safe place for them to do what they need to do,” she said.
Walker provides a vital ministry said Amy S. Allen, BHS president and CEO.
“Dr. Walker is an amazing Christian witness in our community,” she said. “She is an inspiration to me and to all those who have the opportunity to work with her.”
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