Called from a young age to the spiritual, Les knew his life would be best spent in the service of God. With a Master’s degree in Bible and Theology attained in Springfield, Missouri, Les moved his wife, Marie, and their infant daughter back to central Canada, assuming the pastorate in three rural churches.
Having dealt with death and bereavement throughout his life, both on a personal and professional level, Les took courses in that field before embarking on a study in chaplaincy at Queen’s University in Kingston.
Chaplaincy is a theological discipline that focuses on spiritual care, reaching beyond the borders of any one church. It embraces people from all religious faiths and non-religious backgrounds. “While I’m as ecumenical as they come and have deep respect for all faiths and their institutions, the idea of chaplaincy seemed the right fit for me. It seemed to suit my sense of broader spiritual horizons beyond church walls.”
Following years of experience in a psychiatric hospital in Ontario and propelled by a deep sense of adventure, Les, Marie and their now two young daughters headed to Victoria, BC where Les found work as the chaplain at the Saanich-Peninsula Hospital.
“My thirteen years there were deeply rewarding, as much of my work was with patients, families, and staff on the newly created palliative care ward which had been the neo-natal unit. How paradoxical, yet appropriate! Those whose earthly lives are coming to conclusion receive the same loving care and attention as those who are beginning theirs.”
For three years Les was happily employed as Ecumenical Chaplain at a large Salvation Army homeless shelter in downtown Victoria where many residents suffer from mental health issues, complications of addiction or HIV/AIDS. His work there informs the work he currently does with a local half-way house.
Because both daughters and six grandchildren live in Port Alberni, Les and Marie were drawn here in “retirement”. Les began volunteering at Ty Watson House, quickly becoming a member of the staff.
“With all the dynamics of the dying process, we who attend to the needs of the dying and their families are treading on sacred ground. I have such reverence and respect for each unique journey. As a chaplain, I am here, not to proselytize, but to offer a ministry of caring, loving presence…the greatest gift. If I am invited to share my faith, I will, but I accept people where they are on their journey, not where I want them to be. My service is to walk alongside and truly listen to them: to hear their story, explore deep questions about life’s meaning, hold their hands, say a prayer, read a scripture, or simply light a candle and share the music they love…however they want me to walk beside them, I am honored to be there.” Amen, Les, amen.