Maybe like me, you grew up watching the Korean War sitcom M*A*S*H. The adventures of Hawkeye, Trapper, Frank, Margaret, Henry, Radar, Col. Potter, Klinger, B.J., Charles, and yes, Father John Patrick Francis Mulcahy. Father Mulcahy was the post chaplain, and his character went back to the original movie.
Father Mulcahy provided a bit of sanity. He was often the straight man for the team of comic stars. He had a strong faith, yet he had struggles. I never really wanted to be a military chaplain growing up. I never thought I would be a fire chaplain, either. But as a person of faith, I had a lot of respect for that character. I hope some of Father Mulcahy has rubbed off on me and encouraged my growth as a public safety chaplain.
What can we as chaplains learn from this character?
1. Most ministry happens in the stress of daily life. The interruptions are the ministry. You always saw Father Mulcahy helping in the midst of confusion. Be there. Do something useful. Providing the sacraments or preaching are not all you’re there for.
2. Know that you are a vital part of the inter-disciplinary team. You play an important part. Father Mulcahy struggled with this at times, but that is okay. I think it kept him honest. He also knew where the doctor’s role ended and his began. And nothing would keep him from it.
3. If you can't handle the blood, guts, high stress, and a little foul language this job may not be for you. Just like in war, the things first responders and chaplains see and hear can be quite awful. If you cannot handle it, this job may not be the best for you, and that’s OK.
4. Be wise to what is going on. You may sound as if you’re innocent of the ways of the world, like Father Mulcahy, but he understood what was going on and so should you.
5. Live and interact with those around you. A chaplain who isn’t seen isn’t used. It wasn’t unusual to see Father Mulcahy in the Officers Club or even in the “swamp” with the guys in the evening. He knew ministry happened best among friends.
6. Use your rank and position to help others. I think my favorite quote from Father Mulcahy was "The meek shall inherit the earth, but it is the grumpy who gets promoted." Use your promotion and rank to help others. That is what it's there for.
7. Make sure you have time away with God. Take your faith seriously. You don’t need to compromise or be embarrassed about taking daily time with God; that’s what keeps you going and equips you to help those who are counting on you.
In the end what really drew me to the character of Father Mulcahy were his compassion and ethics. He was a man who loved God and the people around him and always kept true to his faith. And I believe this was a good reflection of Christ.
Chaplain Chris M. Wade
South Carolina Public Safety Chaplains Association