Search for new college chaplains begins

With a change in the nature of the jobs of the chaplains and the departure of Rabbi Devorah Jacobson, the search for new Roman Catholic and Jewish chaplains has begun.

The search for the new Roman Catholic chaplain began in January, when, according to co-chair of the Newman Association Chris Stephan, ads were put in “local and national journals and periodicals.”

With Jacobson’s sudden departure from the college, the search for the Jewish Chaplain has yet to officially begin. Reverend Robert Buckwalter, Chaplain of the College, said he hopes to have someone in place in both positions by the first of July.

Previous to the academic year 1998-1999, both the Catholic and Jewish Chaplains were 0.2 employees, meaning they only worked one day a week. This was changed in April of 1998 to make both positions 0.5, or half-time.

Stephan said due to the increase from 0.2- 0.5 time, the chaplain’s job is considered a “new position,” requiring a national job search. Because this decision was made in April, there was not enough time to find a permanent chaplain by July, and Peter Feudo continued as interim Roman Catholic chaplain for the academic year 1998-1999.

The search teams for the chaplains will consist of students selected by other students in the respective religious group and non-student members chosen by Dean of the College Peter Murphy and Buckwalter. As senior officer with responsibility for the chaplaincy, Murphy will be in charge of the committees, but Buckwalter will chair both in meetings.

The job description for the Roman Catholic chaplain describes the many different qualifications for the chaplain and the responsibilities of the position.

The committee will consider members of the clergy, lay, or religious candidates. The candidates need to have “knowledge and appreciation of the full range of Catholic theology, liturgy and tradition,” along with, “Enthusiasm about and a commitment to working with college students.”

Stephan described the job qualifications as “enthusiasm and capacity for serving as an educator, spiritual guide, facilitator and advocate for our community.”

Murphy, said, “From my point of view, the most important quality [of a Chaplain] is an understanding of Colleges of our sort, and an interest in fostering the spiritual life of such a place.”

The responsibilities of the Roman Catholic chaplain include being a chaplain to the Catholic community on campus, which consists of about 20 percent of students and a counselor to “both spiritual and personal issues of students and the larger campus community.”

The chaplain will also be a program coordinator, initiating both his or her own programs and those of the Newman Association, and educator, the liturgical coordinator for the Newman Mass and other celebrations, and a community advocate who supports the Catholic community on campus and who helps, “relate campus Catholics to the larger community.”

Although the search has not begun and the job description for the Jewish chaplain has not been written, Buckwalter said that the description will be similar to that of the Catholic chaplain. The difference in the roles, according to Buckwalter, is that with more programming responsibilities to coordinate the Jewish Religious Center (JRC) than by the Newman Association, the Chaplain’s role with the JRC will be more active.

Buckwalter said that there will be much debate among members of the search team for the Jewish Chaplain as to whether or not the candidate will have to be a rabbi, a necessity for the high holy days of the fall. With the exception of a one-year interim chaplain, the Jewish Chaplain has historically been a rabbi. The job description will list both rabbi and lay person as qualifications, although the search team may decide to put more weight on candidates who are rabbis.

Buckwalter said there may also be debate on the Catholic search team as to whether the chaplain should be a priest and this decision will again be debated and decided by the search team.

Although Buckwalter is a full-time employee of the college, he said this discrepancy is due to the fact that as Chaplain of the College he has many nondenominational duties, such as memorial services and being “a religious presence representing the college” at events such as convocation and commencement.

Buckwalter also added that he is a half-time Chaplain and a half-time community service coordinator.

According to Buckwalter, the chaplains are half-time employees due to issues of both money and need. He said that there is “no crying need” to make the chaplains full-time, and half time is enough to do what is necessary for the students.”

Buckwalter said, “In this job you can always do more,” to help students and set up programming, but it is up to the chaplain how much time they put in and if they work more than half-time.

Murphy agrees with Buckwalter on the issue of time and the necessity of time. He said that in talking to both Buckwalter and Jacobson, “it doesn’t seem to me that we currently need more time.”

Peter Feudo, the current Roman Catholic Chaplain said that half-time hours are still not enough for him to complete everything he needs to do.

“While the position I fill is part-time, it is a ministry, and, as such, I average many hours beyond those for which I am compensated,” said Feudo. “As I have experienced at Williams and elsewhere, students benefit from someone who is available according to their needs, at almost any time, seven days per week.”

Feudo added, though, that although he puts in more hours than he is paid for, it is the College’s decision as to whether the position will be half or full-time.

“I recognize that whether positions are full or part-time is viewed best in the context of the goals and resources of the institution, rather than any single person,” said Feudo.

Buckwalter said that although it would be good to have a chaplain for students of all different faiths, this is not possible because of the money constraints and the diverse student population.

As part of his job, Buckwalter finds advisors to lead students of all faiths, a place for them to worship and money for celebrations. There are chaplains to represent Catholic, Protestant and Jewish students because these three groups make up the largest percentage of the student body at Williams.

A member of the search team for the Catholic chaplain who did not wish to be named said that having Chaplains to represent students of all faiths “would be fantastic.”

The person added that “faith can be marginalized on our campus” and having greater resources would help the students to deal with this.

Murphy said, “Ideally students of all faiths should be able to find some guidance or expertise on campus,” but it is not practical to hire a Chaplain for each group because it would be too expensive and not an effective use of person-hours.