Catholic chaplain meets workers’ spiritual needs at Tyson Foods

.- One of the largest employers in North America, Tyson Foods Inc., now has a chaplaincy program that serves employees in 81 plants and 161 locations in the United States, Canada and Mexico, reported the Arkansas Catholic.

This program is part of a growing trend in the United States to implement workplace chaplaincy to address employee issues, including mental health, retention, productivity, and morale.

Coca-Cola Bottling and the Federal Bureau of Investigation also offer workplace chaplaincy services.

Tyson, with corporate offices in northwest Arkansas, has three full-time chaplains and 126 part-time chaplains. Tyson has hired a diversity of people to meet these needs. They represent different faith traditions as well as a variety of cultural and linguistic groups. Currently, the chaplains include 60 Caucasian, 42 Hispanic, 18 African-American, four Asian, 51 bilingual and 11 females, Justo Gonzalez told the Arkansas Catholic.

The chaplains aren’t office people. They walk the production lines and speak with employees.

"It is amazing what happens when people get to know you and trust you,” said Gonzalez, who is one of the program’s managers. Gonzalez is the company’s first full-time Catholic and bilingual chaplain.

"People talk to us about a variety of issues. In many ways it is a spiritual employee assistance program. We walk with folks on short-term crises and counseling intervention.” Employees are referred to community resources if they need long-term assistance.

A chaplaincy program is a win-win situation for both employer and employee, said Gonzalez.

"It is also good business because an employee that is taken care of doesn't have to carry a two-ton crisis on their back and is better able to be focused and more productive and able to stay with us longer," he explained.

Last August, Tyson Foods was a sponsor for the first Workplace Chaplaincy Conference at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Conn. It was organized to discuss issues, problems and trends within the various programs around the country. The second such conference has been organized for Nov. 9-11.

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