HARTFORD, Conn. —
Wenger said there are immediate matters to tend to: “Provide what’s needed, but also keep an ear open for emotional responses. It’s not counseling. It’s not ‘How are you feeling?’ It’s ‘How can I help?’ ‘Do you need water?’ ‘Do you know where your relatives are?’”
“Now, if someone says, ‘Please help me, please pray for me,’ then it’s appropriate. But when people are in shock, that’s usually a couple of days away,” Wenger said.
A disaster chaplain’s work can become more pronounced as time goes on in the days, weeks and months after an event.
“People in any sort of a disaster, but people especially in mass-casualty situations, many of them will look to their faith for solace, comfort,” said Mosher, of Hartford Seminary.
“If they’re going to be in a disaster evacuation situation for very long, they’re going to have their religious rituals they’re going to want to be able to conduct because it gives them strength and solace. And so the disaster chaplains can provide that, they can also be the bridge between the people who want spiritual care and the people who are really busy dealing with bricks, mortar and broken bodies, to give them the space both physically and mentally to do whatever it is they need to do.
“Also,” Mosher said, “there are issues of dress and food regulations which, in a disaster situation, all bets are off on many fronts. You can’t necessarily get Buddhist care or Muslim care for this body right here, but you can have a little bit of sensitivity. The more multi-religiously sensitive everybody involved is, the less likely you will be to make it worse, spiritually.”