By David Lewellen
Thirty newly certified chaplains received their certificates and the blessings of their colleagues at the missioning ceremony at the NACC conference.
“It was beautiful; it was breathtaking,” said Becky Goff of Montgomery, AL. “It was a very touching cap to a long journey.”
Bishop Donald Hying of Gary, IN, the NACC’s episcopal liaison, thanked the newly certified “for the beauty and power of your ministry, for the depth of your faith, for the love in your heart to do what you do.”
Hying talked about the difference between everyday chronos time and kairos time, the moments of grace that break through the ordinary — such as the day when his dying mother turned to his father and asked, “Did I love you enough?” In his father’s answer — “Of course you did” — Hying saw “a kairos moment, when time stops and we enter into the world of another human being. … In these moments, we are privileged to witness God’s love and mercy, his presence and power.”
Jesus practiced “radical compassion, all-embracing love,” Hying said. “That’s how we are called to love. It’s a pretty tall order, to put aside our beliefs and preconceptions and fears.” As professional chaplains, he told his audience, “you are on the frontiers of what it really means to evangelize, to become the incarnation of God’s love.”
After the congratulations and the group photo, John McCullough of Chicago said, “I didn’t realize that actually receiving the certificate itself would bring back all the memories of what I went through to accomplish it.”
“I’m very excited to come back to this ministry in the presence of people from all over the country,” said Fr. John Melepuram of Abingdon, PA, who renewed his certification after letting it lapse two decades ago.
Feeling the blessing from the bishop and the others in the room was “very affirming,” said Kathleen Kelleher of Quincy, MA. “I got a charge. I also feel the responsibility of being part of a community — but also supported.” Becoming a chaplain, she said, was “an invitation from God and a lot of work. But doors kept opening, and I kept walking through.”