St. Ignatius
SI Jesuits Sworn in as SFFD Chaplains

SI Jesuits are now the official chaplains for the San Francisco Fire Department. SI President Edward A. Reese, S.J. and John Mitchell, S.J. ’58, the superior of SI's Jesuit community, had been offering chaplain services to the SFFD since the fall of 2020, but pandemic measures prevented them from having this formal ceremony, which finally happened on April 12. When asked how he came to this service, Fr. Reese began his story with experiences from decades ago.

"I've been a chaplain for years. My journey to becoming a chaplain began when I was in Los Angeles," he said. "I was working in a halfway home for juveniles, and I got to know cops who would bring kids back to the house. Soon, I started doing ride-alongs with officers to get to know their jobs better. After I went to San Jose, I hadn't been there long when I bumped into an officer I knew who mentioned the police department was looking for a Catholic chaplain and asked if I would do it. They had been looking for a chaplain for a while, so I happily took that on and did it for the next 15 years. When I went to Phoenix, I became chaplain for the Arizona state highway patrol and Phoenix Police Department."

Fr. Mitchell noted he has a family connection to firefighters.

"My brother was a fireman," he said. "So, along with talking with Eddie about his experiences as a police chaplain, when this came across my desk, my first reaction was, 'Absolutely. We can help out.'"

At a broad level, they said, their mission as chaplains is to be there for firefighters and their families in whatever ways possible, and they are on call to minister when needed, such as a death in the department, or when there is a particularly large fire. Moreover, they expect to support firefighters at some formal events, such as parades.

"For both Jack and me," Fr. Reese said, "This is a way for us to pay back first responders for what they do for us."

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