When the Chaplain program started in Dodge County in 2018, no one dreamed it would grow in size to include 10 chaplains. It is the only organized chaplain group in the 11 counties of southeast Minnesota.
Chaplain Roger Langworthy, described by Sheriff Scott Rose as the ‘go-to guy’ to extend leadership to the group, explained that the 10 volunteer chaplains from all around Dodge County receive extensive training before they are called to assist at the scene of an accident, a suicide, or other critical incidents.
When are chaplains called out?
Matt Maas, County Emergency Management Director, said the chaplains are called out for different purposes.
One reason is to notify the families of people who died in an accident or in another unexpected way. This is an incredibly tough duty, said Langworthy, but having a chaplain along to deliver the news seems to soften the blow a little.
“We can offer to pray with the families and our presence may help the family feel connected to spiritual comfort in a time of awful reality.”
Also, the chaplains might go out on calls that may be especially hard for families, for example, a house fire. Chaplains may be used to assist first responders in dealing with a particularly hard call.
“There are a multitude of different calls that our chaplains respond to,” explained Maas. The primary purpose for their response is to assist victims as well as victims’ families in very trying times as well as assisting the first responders with the emotionally challenging calls that they all too often respond to.
They have been a wonderful addition to the Sheriff's office and they are such a great group of men and women, dedicated to serving their communities. It is really nice to have them available to help those in need during very challenging times.”
Langworthy explained that dispatch calls out the chaplain who lives nearest to the incident and then if that person is not available, dispatch personnel go down the list until they find a chaplain who is available. There are three chaplains in Kasson, three in West Concord, two in Dodge Center, and two in Hayfield.
The chaplains are all volunteers. They do wear a ‘uniform’ of sorts. Langworthy said the chaplains wear, “Clothing and a badge that identify the chaplains and also high visibility gear for safety at certain incidences such as traffic accidents or fires.”
When the schools are in session, chaplains are available to be called in to help staff the ‘comfort room’ for students in the event of a critical incident involving the school. This is something that other pastors of the communities have been involved in as well as those that are chaplains, he explained.
The chaplains have been trained along the lines of things that they might go through, explained Langworthy. As part of his training, he has been on several ride-alongs where he accompanied a deputy on patrol.
“Accompanying a deputy helps me understand what they go through during their shift and their levels of stress. I can get to know how they need to respond to a particular situation and then how I might provide assistance.”
Langworthy also has visited the dispatch center and seen what those jobs are like.
“Dispatchers are so professional and so efficient,” he said. “They’re dealing with emotional callers, several computer screens, and the stress of knowing their calm, appropriate response is crucial to the both the caller and to those that respond.”
Langworthy talked about some of the ways the chaplains have been able to assist the Sheriff’s office.
“First responders are able to hand members of the family off to us so they can do their jobs to help the injured. Much of the time the service of chaplains is just being there. Our presence as a point of contact with the Lord brings comfort.”
“We’ve also been able to provide some answers about formalities that will be observed because of the death or accident.”
The chaplains offer a comforting presence that isn’t law enforcement but that is affiliated with officialdom.
Langworthy also serves on an 8-member peer support group for personnel in the Sheriff’s office. Employees may talk to members of the group and know that their conversations are kept confidential and that they are not being judged.
These are the people that serve as chaplains in Dodge County as of today.
Bernie Lattner, FMC Chaplain; James Zotalis, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Kasson; Jim Martin, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Dodge Center; Roger Langworthy, Praise Fellowship Church, Dodge Center; John Todor, First Baptist Church, Kasson; Rex Edge, Blooms of Love, Dodge Center; Shari Edge, Blooms of Love, Dodge Center; Peter Moen, Concord Church of Christ, West Concord; Jeff Bernard, South Zumbro Lutheran Church, Kasson; Peter Wyttenbach, South Zumbro Lutheran Church, Kasson.