Goin’ to the Chaplain

Lately a new face can be seen in the student lounge of the Law School — a Jesuit's.

The Rev. Richard Sherburne is one of several newly appointed chaplains to the academic colleges of Marquette.

Chaplains are members of the clergy or lay ministers who attend to the spiritual needs of an organization. This can include conducting services, praying with people or general counseling and care. Hospitals, branches of the armed forces and sports teams traditionally have chaplains. Now, every academic college at Marquette does too.

Several of the colleges have had chaplains for some time. The Rev. Patrick Dorsey has served as the College of Dentistry's chaplain and the Rev. Walter Stohrer has been working as the College of Nursing's chaplain for over 15 years.

In addition, the Rev. Thomas Brennan, who is a member of the management faculty in the College of Business, has been serving as chaplain for some time in addition to teaching.

The Rev. Edward Mathie, director of University Ministry, said the need for chaplains was something that came to his attention early on when he took the job of director two years ago.

"In listening to the needs of people on campus, it came to my attention that chaplains were really needed," Mathie said. "People really wanted to go back to what had been before, with a chaplain in every school."

Mathie said the need for chaplains in various schools became more pronounced after several deaths of students and staff. Shortly after engineering student Justin Schroeder was killed in a car accident on his ride back from Marquette's Final Four appearance in New Orleans last spring, the college contacted University Ministry about setting up a memorial service and doing some grief counseling.

"While we were working with everyone over there, we kept thinking, 'Wouldn't it be easier if we had someone who was already over here working with the college who knew people and was already a part of the students' lives?'" Mathie said.

Mathie said he then approached the deans of the colleges that did not already have chaplains to see if they would be interested. The only requirement was that the chaplain have some sort of office or space so that staff and students would know where to find them. It was also requested that eventually some money be set aside to pay the chaplain.

"We realized that we might have people outside University Ministry or the Jesuit community in these positions and we wanted to make sure they have some kind of compensations," Mathie said. "However, it was not and is not a requirement to have a chaplain."

Mathie said all of the responses from deans were positive, with levels of enthusiasm running the gamut. Mathie, who is chaplain of the College of Engineering, said Dean of Engineering Stan Jaskolski was particularly inviting.

"As soon as I suggested the idea, he said, 'We can get you this room as an office and I'll introduce you to these department chairs, and you can come to these meetings,'" Mathie said. "He could not have been more hospitable."

However, as quickly as they are invited in, most of the new chaplains understand it will take time to build themselves into the routine of the college and the lives of the students.

Ann Mulgrew, director of the retreat program in University Ministry and chaplain to the College of Arts & Sciences, said she and co-chaplain the Rev. Michael Morrison are working on making themselves more visible to students and faculty.

"So far, most of my initial contact has been with faculty and staff," Mulgrew said. "It is harder to be present to students when the college is spread out among so many different buildings on campus."

Mulgrew said she is still very excited about being a chaplain. Having been a teacher herself, she looks forward to connecting faculty and students more closely to University Ministry.

"We are trying to bridge this side of the street with the other and to diminish any divide," Mulgrew said.

The duties of a chaplain have range and variety. Officially, they provide grief counseling and crisis intervention, informal support and pastoral counseling for interested students and staff and perform invocations and prayers at commencements and faculty meetings.

The Rev. Richard Sherburne, chaplain of the Law School, said he mostly tries to be available to students.

"I just try to be there, to make conversation and listen," Sherburne said. "I find that most students, since they go to a Jesuit university, like the idea and opportunity of getting to know at least one Jesuit before they graduate."

Stohrer said he has led retreats for the College of Nursing and discussed the importance of the spirit of mission in the college at faculty meetings.

Mulgrew has led a prayer for many of the faculty members and sees this part of her job as important.

"It is a gentle reminder to continue to incorporate mission and identity into everything they do," Mulgrew said.

Stohrer said he has connected with many students because of referrals from faculty.

"Many of the faculty have said that when a student requests to talk to someone or is having a serious problem, it is nice to know they can refer them to Fr. Wally," Stohrer said.

Mathie believes that the chaplains are fulfilling a crucial part of the university's promise to students.

"The university promises excellence in every part of their care for students — in academia, in health care, in leadership and in spiritual care," Mathie said. "Students should not have to work hard to seek out spiritual guidance and care. This is not an extra. This is a part of what we should already be doing."

Students can make appointments to speak with their college's chaplains through the main office of the college or through University Ministry.