Passing Along Stories

One of the purposes of this website is to collect and disseminate stories. I’ve done some work as a police chief promoting practices and systems of information / intelligence collection and dissemination. These fusion centers focus on receiving information, analyzing it and disseminating it as intelligence that can be applied in our public safety operations. So maybe what I’ve got going here is a “spiritual exercise fusion center”. I can collect stories, analyze them and put them out to the troops as a “spiritual fitness exercise”.

This morning I received an e-mail from my son who recently joined the Steese Area Fire Department, located just outside of Fairbanks Alaska. He was passing along an e-mail post (http://firefighterclosecalls.com/) he had received and thought it fit into what I’m now doing. As I read it, and thought about it (I don’t really think I’d call it analysis, but it is a start) I found a couple of ideas that could give readers something to think about. So take a few minutes and read this story about the passing of a man of faith who spent a big part of his life caring for those who spend their lives protecting others.

It’s with sadness that we pass on to the members of The Secret List that our friend and very well known California Fire Service Chaplain, Monsignor John Sammon, passed away at about 4:30 Friday morning of natural causes in his residence. Monsignor Sammon had spent Thanksgiving with his family on Thursday. The California Fire Service, the Orange County Fire Service as well as the nation’s fire service lost a dear friend, spiritual advisor, cheerleader and clearly…a fire service icon. The “fire service” legacy of “Monsignor” began in Compton in 1942 – when his responsibilities split. His work as a priest often led him to nearby hospitals, where he met several firefighters. He started visiting the fire station down the street from his parish, friendships grew, and he was appointed chaplain. They told him he couldn’t promote the Catholic religion or talk politics, he recalled. He still held to those guidelines 60+ years later. “I’ve never once asked any firefighter about their faith or if they went to church,” he said. “I just wanted them to know that while they were taking care of people, someone was taking care of them.”

From his earliest days as a chaplain, Sammon learned to honor the fire service tradition of eating ice cream to celebrate awards, promotions or a firefighter getting their picture in the newspaper. He’s concerned that these days, firefighters’ health consciousness is causing the ice cream tradition to melt away.

In 1944, Catholic leaders moved Sammon to an L.A. parish and let him continue moonlighting as a chaplain for the fire service as well as for police. He also served as the Los Angeles Rams’ chaplain. “I kept telling them, ‘If I pray and you play, we’ll win,'” he said. “Well, I did my part. ”

In 1960, Sammon was transferred to Tustin to serve as pastor for St. Cecilia Catholic Church. He had already befriended several Orange County chiefs at fire service events, so it was natural for him to continue his work as a fire chaplain.

Anyone who ever met Monsignor Sammon knew that a high priority of his was to care for all firefighters and to unify the fire service “family”. He didn’t want departments to be isolated islands. “I’ve always preached that we’re a family…because we are one,” Sammon said.

I have been fortunate to know and befriend many wonderful Fire Chaplains of all faiths in my career. That group of “behind the scene heroes”..the Fire Chaplains, have never failed to make a positive and calming difference. They are a stabilizing force during some rough times as well as an important part of the good times….and they matter. Take a moment to check out this site: http://www.firechaplains.org/ for more on the fine work done by Fire Chaplains.