York City Police's newest chaplains include parents of fallen officer
For two of York City's newest police chaplains, the mission couldn't be more personal. Or more heartfelt.
Alix and Arelis Sable are the parents of York City Police Officer Alex Sable, who died in the line of duty May 9 after suffering a cardiac arrest three days earlier. The 37-year-old was part of a SWAT class in Baltimore, training to become a member of the York County Quick Response Team, when he suffered the heart attack.
"Our son left a legacy to help anybody who came in contact with him," Alix Sable said. "He made an impact in other people's lives and set an example. ... He gave it all."
The Sables, along with four other new York City police chaplains, were sworn in during a ceremony in York City Council chambers on April 17. They join eight other chaplains in volunteering their services and time.
Police officers call in chaplains when someone needs support, guidance or a shoulder to cry on — basically when people "are hurting in some way and we (officers) don't know how to help them," said York City Police Chief Troy Bankert.
"They are a very vital component of what ... we offer to the community," Bankert said, adding the chaplain corps has been revitalized over the past year and a half under the direction of Lt. Roger Nestor, who heads up the department's Community Services Division.
26 years of volunteerism: Before swearing in the newest chaplains, Bankert honored "retiring" city police Chaplain Capt. Darnell Bowman for his 26 years of volunteer service.
Bowman is pastor of York's Unity Church of God in Christ and was given a retirement badge by the chief, who said it's the same retirement badge officers receive when they retire.
Nestor said the new mission of the reinvigorated chaplains corps includes connecting with the community in good times as well as supporting and comforting people in bad times.
The change was inspired by current Chaplain Capt. Carlos Kelly, who volunteers his chaplain time extensively to the community, specifically to Logos Academy, according to the lieutenant.
"People are going to see the chaplain jackets and shirts out there regularly," Nestor predicted, "and not just in times of crisis."
First rabbi: Another new chaplain sworn in Wednesday, Rabbi Jeffrey Astrachan of Temple Beth Israel, is the first rabbi to serve in the York City Police Chaplain Corps.
He said that volunteering to help the community as a city police chaplain allows him to "join with many of my colleagues in other parts of the country" who are doing the same thing.
Astrachan — supported by a number of his congregants who attended the ceremony — said he's excited for the opportunity to serve the York community in a new way.
The other new chaplains sworn in Wednesday are the Rev. Mike Brossman of Calvary United Methodist Church, the Rev. Edwin Santana of Iglesia Pentacostal Mision Goel and Chaplain Frederick Shilke Sr., who is a member of the international Federation of Fire Chaplains.
Alix Sable is associate pastor at Lancaster Church of the Brethren and pastor of Maranatha Multicultural Fellowship.
Honoring Officer Sable: He said he and his wife hope that by helping people in York, they will be continuing their son's mission.
"And maybe it will help us to carry on his memory," Alix Sable said. "I know God used him in a very special way, and it's rewarding knowing we're continuing the work God had him doing."
Arelis Sable said her son sometimes asked them to pray for people he interacted with as a police officer. He never provided names, just circumstances, she said.
The Sables are evangelical Christians, but Arelis Sable said religious denominations aren't important. What's important is helping those in need and in pain, she said — something their son knew well.
"The mighty power has called us to do good deeds and to serve others," she said. "We always wanted to put our faith in action."
Alix Sable said some people haven't been able to understand the grief he and his wife endure. Some have even told them to "get over it," he said.
Empathetic ears: The Sables said their family tragedy gives them an unenviable ability to empathize with those grieving the loss of loved ones. Sometimes, words aren't even necessary.
"Just being there (is sometimes enough)," the grieving mother said.
"And listening," her husband added.
Arelis Sable said she doubts the pain she and her husband feel will ever end.
"But we honor our son's memory," she said, then recalled some of the last words she spoke to her son before his death:
"I'm proud of you, for the man you have become."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.