FBI Chaplain Program

Video Transcript

Steve Norden, Detroit Field Office: Hello. I'm Chaplain Steve Norden of the Detroit Division of the FBI. I have had the humbling privilege serving the women and men of the FBI as chaplain for 11 and a half years. 

We chaplains in the FBI are one of the pillars of the EAP program, the others being peers, those who respond to critical incidents, and also those who are EAP counselors. We provide emotional and spiritual support to agents, analysts, management, and professional staff. 

As you listen to these stories, you're going to hear some that inspire you. You may hear some that tug at the strings of your heart. And I hope that you'll hear some that beckon you to consider being an FBI chaplain.

Gloria Chaney, Cleveland Field Office: We're physical. We're intellectual. We're emotional. And yes, we're spiritual. Our first responders go through a lot. They really do. And having been in the office for so long, I know sometimes they just want to talk. They just want someone to listen, and they want to kind of reflect on things that they've gone through or are going through. So I think we lend a presence to help them in this process.

Joseph Lorenzo Villegas Sr., Albuquerque Field Office: If you're going to do the work for the calling that you're getting from God himself, you need to be present. You feel it. You know it. You experience it with the living, including the people, the souls that are crossed over the other side.

Joseph McCaffrey, Pittsburgh Field Office: I can attest to the fact that it is truly an amazing service. You're really given the opportunity to serve those who serve us in incredible ways. Sacrificing themselves. Running in when everyone is running out. And to be available to have that opportunity to just listen, comfort, and be present when they are suffering.

Kristen Ellis, Cincinnati Field Office: I think it's important to have chaplains in the FBI offices because it is a ministry of presence. I remember when I was first offered the opportunity, I wondered, you know, what could I offer these great Americans who are the best at what they do? I have found that just that ministry of presence to be just a guiding light in my chaplain work.

Mark Shook, St. Louis Field Office: Being a chaplain is a way of extending your understanding of the world of God and human beings and human care and what's right and what's wrong. And it's good to have a perspective that comes in and provides a perspective that can be spiritual, that can open up and answer questions. Some of the worst questions we would ever get.

Jayson Landeza, San Francisco Field Office: What you're dealing with are women and men who serve the agency in the Bureau, who serve throughout the country, throughout the world, who have a just a broad amount of experience that invites us to a unique kind of ministry that you really don't find at at a local level. It's a wonderful ministry of presence that invites any law enforcement chaplain to be present to a unique group of folks whose lives are dedicated to the service of this country.

Shook: One Saturday evening, I got a phone call from a colleague in the county police department where I work, and he said, "You're an FBI Chaplain."  I said, "Yes, I am." He said, "Well, we have a kind of a situation, and we think it would be helpful if we had one of you guys out here at the situation." 

Turned out that an agent's daughter had committed suicide. And so I went to be with the agent outside of his house. We had nowhere to go. So basically, we took the agent, invited him into my car, and we sat in the car for a couple hours. The special agent in charge showed up, and he was extremely helpful. He was wonderful at the...at this event. But worst possible moment in a person's life. And that was just, you know, it doesn't get much worse than that for a father in a family and everything else.

And so, taking him from there and being with him later on during visitation before a funeral, it...it allowed him to know that he was not alone, that not only were his colleagues in the FBI, but there was spiritual support that he was getting at that...at the time of a very difficult moment in his life. It gives you a satisfaction. It's...you don't want bad things to happen, but when they do, you really want the people in your care to have someone they can talk to, and you can be very helpful in the worst moments of an agent's life, or an analyst’s life, or anyone else working in the FBI.

Ellis: In August, which was two months after I became official in the Cincinnati branch, we had an incident where a man attempted to break into our branch with the intent to kill agents. And even though I had not been in the Bureau very long, it was the first time that something like that, that was on the news, felt very personal to me because those were my friends. And so when I got the call, I wanted to be there. I wasn't afraid. And when I showed up, I think one of the most meaningful experiences for me was just, throughout that day,
the... all of the busyness, the coming and going, the people from headquarters arriving, just the friendships that I had made just in two months, people coming up to me and saying, "Thank you for being here. We need what you do. I'm so glad to see you at this time."

And for me, it was very meaningful, very early in my, you know, tenure in the Bureau, to realize that just showing up is enough sometimes. To say what you want to say, even when you don't have the words and you don't have any expertise to offer other than just your care for those people. Your presence is really the most meaningful way to support the people who are dealing with such difficulty and working so hard for the benefit of everyone.

Landeza: In July 28th of 2019, there was a mass shooting in Gilroy, California. Shooting killed three. In that particular setting, it was my role as an FBI chaplain that invited me to kind of utilize all the different kinds of skills sets that one would use as a law enforcement chaplain and and, in a way, I'd never done before. In...in that mass shooting situation, the chaplain does whatever is needed. I remember doing everything from listening to folks to making runs to Starbucks to make sure our personnel get whatever they need.

I remember one Bu personnel asking, "Hey, Chaplain, can you get me a rosary?" I remember going to a local Catholic parish. I'm a Catholic priest, but I wasn't particularly dressed as a Catholic priest at the time. I was like, "Hey, is there a place I could buy a rosary?" But I knew that one of our Bu personnel really wanted a rosary on that scene. So it's one of those occasions where you're doing everything and anything in service to the incident and in service to the personnel that are on the scene, both Bu personnel, personnel from within the community, local law enforcement. But just being able to represent the Bureau and its desire to be present to the community, in all different aspects, really just was a...a fruitful and fulfilling experience for me as a Bureau chaplain.

McCaffrey: Now I've been with the FBI for over 30 years, and in that time period, I have met some truly incredible and amazing people and have been part of some historical events, some truly tragic events. In the Pittsburgh office, we have had two agents who have died in the line of duty. Also, on 9/11, I was the first chaplain to arrive to assist at Flight 93 in Shanksville. Those experiences taught me a great deal about human courage, faithfulness, integrity. Self-sacrifice, no matter the cost, to do the right thing and to care for others.

When you think of what our agents are exposed to in those types of events and investigations, evidence recovery. As a chaplain, I look at them and say, "This person before me is an amazing human being." And anything that I can do as a chaplain to provide them with some comfort, encouragement, hope, friendship, support. To be able to pray together if they wish. To be able to just be there. It's truly an honor.

To do this gives you and me an opportunity to give back to those who give so much of themselves. If you are in ministry as a Rabbi, Iman, a minister, a priest, and you are afforded the opportunity to serve those who serve us, I highly recommend you consider the invitation.

Villegas: Love. We need to share it. I can be in front of...be in front of an FBI agent, one of the most hardcore, gung-ho, Marine Corps, Army Corps, it doesn't matter. They could be the most hardest hardcore, like a rock, like a piedra. But I can guarantee you one thing. God has love, and God finds a way to get that heart. And by the time you know it, that individual, that soul, we're embracing. That's love. That's what it's all about. The FBI Chaplain corps is con mucho amor, con mucho caridad. With a bunch of love and a lot of care.

Landeza: You're invited to a world that invites you to be a part of that particular scope, that not only do you broaden your sense of perspective in so far as ministry is concerned, but you engage in an opportunity to serve your country by ministering to the people who have the best interests of our country in mind. And I think that's pretty cool, if you ask me. 

Ellis: The opportunity that we have to be there, to be a friendly face, is just some of the most rewarding work that I have found in ministry. Something that I feel like any person of faith would find very natural and very meaningful, personally, in your faith.

Chaney: I'd like to encourage clergy persons, men and women, to think about becoming a chaplain for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I count it a joy. I'm excited that I had this opportunity. And I believe it's a once-in-a-life opportunity. And I think folks have gifts, skills, and talents that indeed our first responders could really use. So come on, think about it. I think you'll be glad that you did.

Norden: If you'd like to consider being an FBI chaplain, I encourage you to contact the employee assistance coordinator in your field office. She or he will be willing to meet with you
and explain the requirements and the expectations of FBI chaplaincy, and if the two of you determine that this is a direction in which you'd like to head, she'll contact or he will contact executive management to see if there is a need for an FBI chaplain in your division and whether or not you might be a good fit.

May God's peace and God's blessing be yours.

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