Meet Chaplain Darren Schwartz
When he landed in the Flathead Valley with his wife and two teenage daughters in late July, Chaplain Darren Schwartz was setting off on a new adventure. Today, as Kalispell Regional Medical Center’s (KRMC’s) new chaplain, he is embracing the opportunities with gusto.
“The hospital recognizes that spirituality is an important part of our lives for many people, especially when they’re sick, hurting or facing death,” Schwartz said. “I appreciate that. I want to support people’s needs.”
Schwartz, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, was born and raised in Michigan and moved with his family to Tucson, Arizona, when he was 14. He earned his bachelor’s degree in religion from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, his master’s degree in counseling from the University of Phoenix in Arizona, and a master’s in divinity from Liberty University. He is currently working on his doctorate in ministry and board certification as a chaplain. He and his wife Regina are parents to Haleigh, 15, and Madison, 12.
For nearly eight years, through 2006, he counseled women with eating disorders at Remuda Ranch treatment center in Wickenburg, Arizona. He then joined the Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center in Sun City, Arizona, as a mental health therapist where he handled inpatient psychology and outpatient counseling.
As his life goals refocused to ministry, his licensed professional counseling credentials would prove to be a valuable asset as a chaplain.
“An Army chaplain recruiter opened my eyes to a ministry I didn’t even know was out there,” Schwartz said. He pursued ordination as a minister and joined the U.S. Army Reserve as a chaplain, knowing that he would be deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. In summer 2012, he learned of and applied for the Army’s one-year residency in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). He was one of only two Reserve chaplains chosen to enter the program. He served for a year at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington.
“It was a huge leap of faith. I knew the training would end after 12 months and I would have to find a job, and my oldest daughter was in her freshman year of high school.” A buddy suggested I look at hospitals in Montana, he said. “I got a little nervous, but I trusted God. I knew he would provide – I just didn’t know how or where.”
During his CPE, he was one of 10 available chaplains, with the lead chaplain assuming responsibility for all funerals. “And then in my first month here in Kalispell, I had three funerals,” he said. “I’m OK with that, but I recognize I need to take care of myself so I can give to others.” He already has found strong support from former KRMC chaplain Eddie Nye and volunteer chaplain Jim Cross, and hopes to develop a broader team from the community to help him cover holidays, weekends and vacations. He is committed to serving all people across the faith spectrum.
“Even though I’m a Christian, I help as much as I can within the boundaries of my faith,” Schwartz said. “I respect the Buddhist monk, the Catholic priest, the Seventh Day Adventist.”
He is impressed with the Emergency Department staff and many others across Kalispell Regional Healthcare as they respond to patient crises. He plans to continue supporting a pair of spiritual growth groups at Pathways Treatment Center, is working with others to help start compassionate care for caregivers, and will be supporting the palliative care team. With his pastoral counseling experience, he also wants to be involved in ministering to our staff as well as our patients and families.
“I want to be involved and helpful in providing compassionate care for all our staff,” Schwartz said.
Kalispell Regional Healthcare joins with Schwartz to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Pastoral Care Week from October 19 to 25. Regardless of spiritual religious or cultural background, Pastoral Care Week recognizes and celebrates those who provide spiritual support to others in specialized settings such as hospitals, prisons, hospices, the military, nursing homes, corporations and other settings across the country.
To visit with Chaplain Darren Schwartz, please feel free to come by his office (on the first floor by the chapel and the gift shop), or call him at 752-1776.
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