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Chaplains offer solace from storm of tragedy
By Deedra Lawhead | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 9:47 PM

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Originally published Jan. 10, 1993

Desperate for information about the fate of their sons, brothers and family members, relatives Saturday rushed to the scene of their murders, to the police department and ultimately looked to clergy and chaplains for news of their loved ones.

Some clutched each other. Some struggled to speak. Others asked to be left alone. All wore their grief plainly as they entered the police department where they were sequestered with a team of chaplains who provided solace and counseling.

"I'm very sad for my brother," said Pedro Maldonado, speaking of Guadalupe, 46, a victim who came to the area from Mexico only three weeks ago to find work.

Guadalupe Maldonado was among the seven people - six men and one woman - found dead early Saturday morning at the Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant at 168 W. Northwest Hwy. in Palatine.

Deputy Police Chief Walter Gasior said the "crisis teams" of chaplains from local hospitals and surrounding police departments were assembled specifically to assist the families.

"They were all appropriately shocked and grieved," said John Thompson, a chaplain with Northwest Community Hospital's pastoral services department in Arlington Heights. "And we helped them with that."

Besides explanations and comfort, the chaplains also provided a physical shield, whisking the family members quickly and quietly from the building to waiting vehicles.

The Arlington Heights hospital's six chaplains were summoned early Saturday morning when it was originally thought the hospital's emergency room would be used as a gathering place for grieving family members, Thompson said.

Instead the chaplains moved to the Palatine police department at 200 E. Wood St. where police chose to provide counseling and inform families.

"Palatine was very gracious and very wise in doing that. We didn't have the room to deal with it here," said Thompson, who arrived at the police department Saturday morning to find two waiting families.

Chaplains can be ministers or laypersons who are affiliated with hospitals, police or fire departments.

"Right now we're just providing for the families," chaplain Tom Barth explained.

Even for the chaplains, providing comfort and counseling to families and friends requires preparation, said Kathy Matsushima, a Northwest Community Hospital chaplain and Inverness resident.

"Basically, I came in prayer," she said. "It's a situation I face all the time at the hospital. Our role is to help people deal calmly (with the situation). It just kicks in. We're just trying to be helpful."

Matsushima also offered advice for friends of the family.

"Give them some privacy and some space, not try and track them down," she said. "Wait and be ready to help as the shock hits. Give them time to get themselves together."