Reminding people of God’s presence

She’s there for families in times of crisis at the hospital, ready to lend a listening ear, offer a prayer or in some other way give hope. In any way she can, she will try to give a reminder of God’s presence. Jessica Zolondek, hospital and hospice chaplain for Trinity Health, is that person who is there when spiritual help is needed.

Zolondek, who is actually one of three chaplains at Trinity, has been in the chaplain business for six years. She grew up in central Florida, went to school at the University of Florida in Gainesville and then on to Columbia Theological Seminary, an institution affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, in Decatur, Ga. When Zolondek finished her degree at the seminary, she took a job in Buffalo, N.D., met her husband and then they both moved to Minot a short time later. Trinity Health hired her as a chaplain.

Zolondek said she has been in North Dakota longer than she thought she would but has no plans of moving anywhere and likes Minot.

“But I’ll go wherever God tells me,” she added. “I have learned not to make plans because then God laughs at me.”

Being a chaplain for the hospital consists of wearing a variety of hats. As a chaplain, Zolondek said, she responds to all traumas, all deaths, all code blues, provides prayer and support, facilitates advanced directives, offers community education and leads worship services. Additionally, Zolondek said she listens to fifth steps for people in recovery, which is a moral inventory involving humbling yourself before someone else as part of the healing process.

“Those are the main components,” she noted about being a chaplain, “but you never know what you’ll be doing in the course of a day. Most people associate us with crisis, but we do a lot of other things, too.”

Zolondek said she became interested in chaplaincy because she has always had a leaning toward spirituality and helping people.

“In my late 20s, I decided to go to seminary, and God opened doors for me. I’ve always been a good listener so it (chaplaincy) seemed like a good line of work for me,” she said.

As a hospital chaplain, Zolondek said she has the opportunity to see a variety of human life, and that’s one of the things she enjoys about her line of work. People open up to you in ways you don’t expect, and there’s a freedom in being a chaplain that you don’t get in being a pastor, she added.

“You see an opening in spirituality in peoples’ lives when they’re in a crisis,” Zolondek said. “You also see a different side of people in a crisis. You see them at their best and at their worst. That’s part of what’s interesting about it.”

Zolondek feels it’s her calling to be a hospital chaplain, and that’s what keeps her coming back to work each day.

“I don’t know what else I would do,” she said. “I’ve tried other things and I keep coming back to this.”

However, there is also some difficulty in Zolondek’s line of work.

“Seeing so much suffering day in and day out,” is difficult, she said, as is feeling helpless in the middle of so much pain.

There are also many rewards that come along with chaplain life. It’s rewarding to know that people feel safe with her when expressing what is deep in their hearts.

“Sometimes people will come up to me in the grocery store and hug me,” she added. Zolondek said it’s also rewarding to pray with people and see the healing in them that will come through prayer. Sitting with people in that time of transition from life to death is rewarding as well, she continued, but it’s not sad because it feels like the natural circle of life.

“I get the chance to sit with them in their holy moments and when people feel at peace before they go. It’s very rewarding.”

As a note, when meeting with a non-believer who is in that time of transition, Zolondek said you go where they are and never impose your beliefs on them.

The presence and availability of a hospital chaplain is important to Zolondek.

“When people are suffering, they need a reminder of God’s presence. We offer listening and support. Listening and prayer have a very healing effect, and they’re essential in a holistic approach to healing, too,” she said.

Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to