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Chaplain's Message (March 2011)


Dear Friends,


My mother was 93 years old. Her health had been failing for a few years, yet she was determined and stubborn. About five years ago her primary care physician made the statement that he expected her to live to be 105. She thought she would even last a bit longer. It was not to be. Mom died peacefully on January 18, 2011. Plans began to be made for calling hours, a service and a luncheon to follow. Mom and Dad’s fire department in Vernon Center took charge of the dinner, so we knew it would be good (and they went way beyond our hopes for a meal – it was awesome).


I wasn’t sure what to expect for calling hours, as most of Mom’s friends predeceased her.


We were overwhelmed! Firefighters from Central New York, Chaplains from as far away as Harmony Corners, Pastors, members of the Boards of Directors from both the NYS Association of Fire Chiefs and NYS Association of Fire Chaplains – friends and family from near and far surrounded us at calling hours. Many of them I knew, but unfortunately there were many that I had not seen since I moved away from Vernon Center in 1974 and I could not remember their names. They understood, for they came just to let me and my family know that they cared and were thinking about us. It truly was a celebration of my mother’s life.


When I reflect upon my role as Fire Chaplain I know that one of the greatest gifts I can bring to anyone is simply my calming presence and the belief that God cares for each and everyone. It wasn’t so much a matter of what people said as they went through the calling hour’s receiving line – what mattered was that they were with us. As fire chaplains, most of us have found that the words we share sometimes will make a difference, but not always. Our presence and the reminder that they are not alone – make all the difference. So often we meet people on the worst day of their lives. In the midst of fire, loss, MVAs, MCIs and tragedy – God is with us. That my friends, IS the Good News!


Stay Safe!


Chaplain Leon I. VanWie

(Chaplain VanWie serves as Chairperson of the Chaplains’ Committee of the New York State Association of Fire Chief’s. He has been active in the fire service since 1976 and was an EMT for over 15 years. Currently he is the Chaplain and President of the Town of Watertown Volunteer Fire Department. Rev. VanWie is a member of the NYS Association of Fire Chaplains and has been trained in Critical Incident Stress Management. He also serves on the Hospital Based Mental Health Crisis Team for his area. Leon was ordained a United Methodist pastor in 1977 and currently serves Asbury United Methodist Church in Watertown, NY. He has served churches and been involved in fire departments in Groveland, DeKalb Junction, Dexter and Oneida before going to Watertown. Chaplain VanWie can be reached at (315) 788-4593 [home] or through his e-mail:

~The NYS Association of Fire Chief’s Chaplains’ Committee~

Providing Spiritual Guidance and Assistance to Association Members