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Conway awarded Illinois “Police Chaplain of the Year”

Posted: April 24 2021 at 10:22 AM
Author: Diane Strzelecki, NIC Communications Specialist


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Chicago Southern District Superintendent Rev. Jacques A. Conway (center) received the Illinois Chaplain of the Year award from the International Conference of Police Chaplains. The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police celebrated with Conway at their monthly meeting in Springfield on April 21.

In April, Chicago Southern District Superintendent Rev. Jacques A. Conway was presented with the Illinois “Chaplain of the Year” award from the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC). The award was presented at two separate ceremonies, one at the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police’s (FOP) monthly meeting in Springfield, Ill., and one at the Oak Park Police Department – both where Conway began his chaplaincy in 1995.

The ICPC Chaplain of the Year award is given by regions and by state said Rick Worshill, the ICPC Illinois area representative. “Nominations for the award can come from anyone including Police Chiefs and citizens,” said Worshill. 

Conway received several nominations, including from fellow ICPC members and the Illinois FOP, and Worshill said the vote was unanimous for him to be this year’s recipient.

The Rev. Richard Wisdom, Senior Pastor for Plainfield UMC and Plainfield Police Department Chaplain, said this distinguished title is befitting for his friend and colleague. 

“It is a big deal in our world,” said Wisdom. “Jacques has selflessly served with distinction and honor for decades and the ICPC is recognizing him for this. And I will tell you it is well deserved!”

Conway was on vacation when he heard about the award from Wisdom, who texted Conway while attending the regional ICPC meeting in March. “He said ‘hey man where you at? You should be at this meeting, you won Chaplain of the Year’,” Conway said. “I was thinking he was pulling my leg, but it was true.” 

An ecumenical, interfaith and interdenominational organization, ICPC was launched in 1973 to organize a network of chaplains with their contact information and “promote the bond of brotherhood so chaplains from far-reaching communities…would be joined together in fellowship.” ICPC currently has 2,200 members in 12 regions across 20 nations worldwide.

Receiving the award is both an honor and a humbling experience, Conway said. “It brought me back to how I became a police chaplain,” he said. “I was put in the position to be honored for what someone else did for me to save my career and perhaps save my life.”

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Ric Worshill (2nd from left) presented the award at the Oak Park Police Department where Conway was a chaplain for 25 years.

Conway had been a police officer with the Oak Park Police Department for about four years when he was involved in a fatal shooting. “Back then we didn’t have a chaplain, we didn’t have anything in place,” he remembered. “They just took my service revolver, interviewed me and just sent me home without any chance to debrief.” 

He describes the days following the shooting as a blur of worry, fear, guilt and more worry. Concerned for his wellbeing, Conway’s mother called on a connection with the Chicago Police Department, who connected Conway with one of their chaplains, a Catholic priest named Thomas Nagel.

"He stayed with me for counseling and support for more than two years,” Conway said. The priest walked with Conway as he worked through depression and anxiety, and through the process of a civil lawsuit filed by the person’s family. And when Conway decided to go into seminary, he knew that he was going to give back and volunteer his time as a police chaplain as well. Today, Conway continues to serve the Illinois FOP, the U.S. Marshall’s Service and the Chicago office of the U.S. Secret Service.

Worshill says Conway exemplifies the important role police chaplains are called to do. “We provide emotional and spiritual support in crisis situations and Jacques has done a tremendous job doing that for a long time,” said Worshill. “What stands out about Jacques is he’s always ready to help someone, to mentor another chaplain and to serve.”

Western Springs Police and Fire Department Chaplain Rev. Christina Vosteen was pleased but not surprised Conway received this award. “He has the mix of gifts and experiences that specifically equip him to minister to the spiritual needs of law enforcement, and his time as an officer gives deep integrity to his care and counseling,” Vosteen said. “In this award, Jacques is being acknowledged for saying ‘yes’ to God's call to serve those who risk their lives to serve us.”

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