Working in a very demanding field, the Merritt RCMP makes it a point to take care of its members’ well being. Whether it be debriefs, consultations with the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team, or approaching the in house chaplain. RCMP members are ensured access to people for guidance, clarity, or even just someone to talk to.
Jim Caruso is the chaplain for the Merritt RCMP detachment. He is both nationally and internationally certified as a RCMP chaplain. A retired pastor for 15 years, his journey to becoming a man of the cloth began in Victoria when he was working as a paramedic.
“Basically I did an ambulance call where a woman tried to take her life,” he recalled. “I saw that she was in rough shape when I came in. After treating her, I felt God say ‘hey, somebody needs to get into her heart and give her some spiritual first aid.”
He went into the ministry after this encounter, working as a volunteer ambulance attendant and volunteer firefighter on the side.
Caruso believes that learning is a life long task, and while working on his master’s degree in the arts, he took a course done by a former RCMP member who introduced him to the idea of becoming a RCMP chaplain.
“I was connected to the E Division Chaplain. We got along well I started my chaplaincy journey from there.” Caruso noted. “We moved around a lot and for every community I’ve pastored in, I became the RCMP chaplain as well.”
After retiring from his pastoral ministry in Richmond two years ago, Caruso moved to Merritt. He was approached by the Cross Roads Community Church to become the interim minister until this past November while also serving the local detachment.
“I am privileged to serve the detachment, offering spiritual care with the full time and auxiliary members of the RCMP and their families.”
Being the RCMP chaplain, Caruso is involved with training, hospital visitation, spiritual guidance, regular drop-ins at the detachment, and ride-alongs with the members. Caruso is also a CISM team member, and would occasionally be asked to officiate weddings and funerals and attend farewell gatherings for members leaving the detachment.
“Being a chaplain is similar to a pastor in some ways and different in others,” he said. “You don’t prepare to have people assemble and focus on one faith. It could be Bhuddist, Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, or any religion.”
According to Caruso, the frequency of members requiring a chaplain’s service varies greatly, as there are weeks where there could be five and other weeks where there could be none.
“Nothing is scheduled and nothing is on call,” he described. “I just make myself available, I just hang out at the detachment, I do ride-alongs with the officers, hoping that I am in the right place at the right time for those who need me.”
Caruso said that the most rewarding part of being a chaplain is being allowed into the RCMP community and getting the chance to be of service to them.
“The service affects each person differently,” he said, “I just go in and listen, give them someone to talk to in an environment that’s safe. It’s just a really privileged position for me to be able to hear them out. I don’t push my faith to them or extract theirs.”
Conversely, the most challenging part about chaplaincy according to him are the times when he he feels helpless to serve the members.
“Sometimes being in the midst of situations that go down, and being at a loss for words is really challenging,” he said. “Those are difficult times because I’m not a member so I can’t do anything in that aspect. All I can do is be there for them.”
With leaving the interim pastor position at Cross Roads and getting security clearance, Caruso now looks to do more work with the Merritt RCMP.