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Spotlight - Recent News at the United States Chaplain Corps

The United States Chaplain Corps (USCC) is committed to providing emotional and spiritual support to people as they face life’s challenges. Across 10 specialized divisions, the organization’s chaplains are prepared to counsel everyone, from police officers to healthcare workers and seniors to young people. Regardless of your background and circumstances, USCC has a chaplain who has the training and compassion to work with you to ease your pain and suffering. 


Founded in 2020, USCC operated in 32 states and reached more than 61,000 people in 2022. In 2023 and 2024, there’s been a flood of news at the organization. From holding remembrance events for the victims of tragedy to opening a new regional office, let’s look at what’s been happening with USCC. 


Memorial Services for Disaster Victims 


In the summer of 2023, USCC held two memorial services in Miami to mark the second anniversary of the Surfside disaster. The June 2021 tragedy saw 99 people lose their lives when a 12-story condominium building collapsed in the Miami suburb. 


In the wake of the disaster, USCC’s first-responder chaplains were on the ground to provide survivors with psychological first aid (PSA), a treatment modality used by first responders around the world. A special unit within USCC, first-responder chaplains undergo rigorous training and have the mental and physical health to handle the stress and challenges of a position that requires being present for people in times of acute psychological trauma. 


The Miami events were the first opportunity for the USCC first-responder chaplains who were on the ground following the disaster to come together. The events also served as a memorial for all those were lost, as well as a reminder of the importance of unity and community in the healing process. 


At the events, surviving loves ones discussed their grief and resilience. USCC Director-General Mendy Coën delivered remarks on the transformative power of performing acts of service. Coën specifically called attention to the family members who, since the Surfside disaster, have become chaplain themselves. Coën commended them and noted that because of their experience, they are uniquely equipped to empathize with people experiencing trauma.  


Appointment of a New Director 


In October, USCC announced a new head of its first-responder division. Claudio Pannunzio has taken the leadership role as well as been named to the USCC board of directors. 


The managing director of Adler Branding and Marketing, Pannunzio is a USCC-certified chaplain who has counseled patients with cancer at Yale Health-Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut and through the Cancer Hope Network (CHN). A two-time survivor of cancer himself, he received CHN’s Flame of Courage Award in 2023.  


In a statement, Pannunzio said he is excited about joining USCC and looks forward to taking over a division that provides an important service to communities affected by disaster. In his leadership role, he plans to collaborate with state and federal agencies to improve the division’s relief efforts. Director-General Coën welcomed Pannunzio to the organization and noted his background and skills make him the right person for the job. 


Agreement with New York City Hospitals 


The new year brought exciting news when USCC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the New York City Health & Hospitals Corporation (NYCHH). Announced on January 4, the agreement will put USCC chaplains in more than 70 NYCHH facilities across all five New York City boroughs. 


Responding to the news, Director-General Coën said he is excited that USCC chaplains will have a presence in what he calls the country’s “premier municipal health care system.” USCC chaplains assigned to NYCHH facilities come from a range of faith backgrounds. Each receives training in social intelligence, social communication, emotional intelligence, and emotional regulation in addition to PSA. 


While spiritual care has often been underutilized in health care settings, Coën notes that the pandemic has illuminated its value. By providing this resource to patients, their families, and medical personnel, USCC chaplains will continue to serve a vital role in enhancing patient care. 


Opening of New Regional Office 


Pannunzio was in the news again in late January when it was announced he would lead a new USCC regional office. Located in Greenwich, Connecticut, it will be USCC’s fourth regional office. 


The opening of the office follows the establishment of regional offices in Florida, California, and New York, and is a key part of USCC’s ongoing expansion. In a statement, Coën said he is “delighted” his organization is establishing a presence in Connecticut. Through the office, Pannunzio will draw on his background as a chaplain in health care settings to forge partnerships with health care facilities across the state. 


Pannunzio said he values the opportunity to give back. With the help of the 20 USCC chaplains initially assigned to the office, he hopes to alleviate pain and suffering and promote healing in the state that he has called home for four decades.  


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