By Mary T. Tracy
A few dozen of us chaplains gathered during the recent NACC conference for Red Cross Disaster Spiritual Care training, and I have been trying to work out why my main response is a feeling of gratitude.
I have some theories. It could be because my Christian identity has convinced me of the truth and beauty paradoxically central to the Christian story. Perhaps it comes from my chaplaincy work, dedicated to serving others and yet finding the truth of St. Francis’ prayer that in loving and serving those most in need, I see how much I need the love of Christ and find myself so richly loved and cared for by others. Or perhaps my gratitude comes from being surrounded by so many caring individuals committed to this same understanding that God’s love, working through even a tiny remnant, can actually save the world. Whatever the reasons, the training by my colleagues left me with a powerful sense of gratitude.
Certainly I learned more acronyms than I expected. Aside from DSC for disaster spiritual care, there were also MARC (multiagency resource center), DRO (disaster relief operation), VST (victim support task), and ICCT (integrated care condolence team), to name a few. I also learned a new appreciation for the history and progress made by a few pioneering colleagues who have carved out a respected place for good care of souls in all traditions and faiths during crises and disasters.
Perhaps most movingly, I learned some of what these same pioneers have suffered and survived by voluntarily entering into the aftermath of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, Newtown, and other disasters. I am convinced that the Communion of Saints walks among us, and sometimes they are disguised as Red Cross DSC agents — well-trained, uniformed, respectful of the chain of command, and focused on the conviction that their work can make all the difference, whether it is a two-week volunteer stint at a disaster site, an evening response to a local residential fire, or an afternoon educating community partners about smoke detectors. Thank you, Tim Serban, Stan Dunk, Jon Wilson, and all those who train, respond, and carry the light into bleak places.
Mary T. Tracy, BCC, is a chaplain at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD.