Tips from a Trauma Chaplain: Notes from Father Jayson’s Class

by The CHI Student Community

March 2009

The following notes were taken during Father Jayson Landeza’s class at the January 2009 Christianity module. Father Jayson has been a priest for 21 years. Seasoned in trauma chaplaincy, he is a chaplain for the Oakland Police and Fire Departments, the Berkeley Fire Department, and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. For the past ten years he has served the largest African-American parish in Northern California. Here are his pointers for serving as a chaplain in a traumatic situation.

Fr. Jason Landeza

1.   To respond in the most sacred, loving, healing way possible is at the heart of chaplaincy. Be a solid, caring presence within the turmoil. Square your shoulders. Be eye to eye.

2.   Being present in whatever way you can to the person is what it’s all about. If the person is dissolved in tears: just be there.

3.   If the person is in pain and says, “How could God let this happen?”, your job is either to mirror it or walk with it.

4.   Silence is often good and even necessary. At times it is better that nothing be said.

5.   Know that it is not your job to defend God, or argue, or state your opinion. It is never about your particular religious agenda, nor is it about pushing anything on the other person.

6.  “I am not someone who thinks that God takes sides.” Minister from this place.

7.   In offering spiritual comfort to a person of the Catholic faith, take the person’s hand as you pray the Catholic version of The Lord’s Prayer together. This will be a comfort to many.

8.   It can be helpful to ask, “Is there anything you would like to ask God’s forgiveness for?” It is not your place to absolve. However, you can facilitate the person’s asking for forgiveness.

9.   Someone may say, “I’ve done some lousy things in life.” You might then say, “Is there anything you would like forgiveness for?” Then you can pray with the person, saying, “We pray God’s forgiveness…”

10. Most important of all: continually ask God to guide you in the words you need to say.