“Chaplains Play Essential Role for Transit Workers” – NY Times

“Mr. Lamorte, a painter for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, had a persistent cough and a high fever. He worried about infecting his wife, his stepdaughter and his five-month-old grandson, who live with him in Oak Ridge, N.J., about 40 miles west of Manhattan,” the NYT reported. “So the call from Barbara Morton, a chaplain with the M.T.A., provided some much needed reassurance.

It was a relief to know that somebody actually cares,” said Mr. Lamorte, 50, who returned to work in January after being out for six weeks. “And it came from the heart.”

“… the M.T.A., which runs New York’s subway, buses and two commuter rails, is one of the few transit agencies in the country to have a chaplaincy program. In a typical year, it helps employees deal with stresses like abusive passengers or deaths on the tracks, as well as more personal problems.

… “There’s a lot of loneliness, a lot of depression, a lot of uncertainty circulating amongst our people,” said the Rev. George Anastasiou, the M.T.A.’s chief chaplain and one of two who are paid for their service… The chaplains’ office has helped with funeral arrangements and attended funerals if asked, Father Anastasiou said. Chaplains of any faith are available, but the service does not have to be overtly religious and many workers who seek out chaplains want to talk about issues unrelated to their spiritual beliefs.

“Like most large employers, the M.T.A. also offers in-house counseling as well as referrals to outside mental health providers. But to many workers, the chaplain program, which started in 1985, provides a listening ear without some of the concern over how they will be perceived if others find out they are seeing a therapist, said Annette Williams, an outreach coordinator for the M.T.A.’s Office of Work-Life Services.”

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