Sr. Barbara confesses that for her the job is more one of instinct. "I pray before I go and ask God to help me say and do the right thing." And when she’s on the scene, the "right thing" happens. It may be an arm around the shoulder, a word of comfort, a listening ear. She admits that listening is key to this ministry. "I don't pray right away. I listen." She believes in the ministry of presence.
One Sunday, however, found her drawn into action. After Mass, while still dressed in her Sunday clothes and heels, she heard a scanner report of an attempted suicide at the Snohomish River. It’s protocol for chaplains to wait for the call before they show up at an incident, but Sr. Barbara felt an urgency about this situation and jumped in her car. On the way, she received the official call. At the site, she clambered down a steep embankment through brush and rocks to reach the river's edge. There she found a drugged-out woman waist high in the water. Sr. Barbara asked her why she was doing this. The woman told a sad tale of having nine children, two with AIDS and one dying and a philandering husband. It was the husband's infidelity that had been the last straw. Sr. Barbara quietly told her that her life was more important than this circumstance. "You are important. Your children need you and we'll get you help," she told her. Through the haze of drugs and swirling emotions, the woman believed this gentle, grandmotherly chaplain and came out of the water. Today, this survivor is doing better and never fails to give Sr. Barbara a big hug when she sees her.
Sr. Barbara loves all aspects of her job, but admits to having a soft spot for the police officers in the Monroe Police Department. "They are the best," she says, "and I’m unbiased!" Highpoints of the week include her visits to the police headquarters to check on everybody.
While many parts of being a police chaplain are not easy, this septuagenarian has no plans for stopping. After all she says, "This is my family!"