by June R. SCHILLINGER
The Reverend Robert Andrew Wendelin was recently appointed chaplain of Niagara Lutheran Health System, Inc. by the board of directors. Chaplain Bob, as he is known, is serving the residents of both Niagara Lutheran Home & Rehabilitation Center in Buffalo and GreenField Health & Rehabilitation Center in Lancaster in as many ways as he can squeeze into his busy days, in addition to carrying out his responsibilities as a 15-year member of the board. He retired from his parish ministry at North Park Lutheran Church, Buffalo, in 1993 having been honored with the Pastor Emeritus title by the congregation, and also with proclamations by the Erie County Executive and the Mayor of Buffalo for his community services. What has he been doing to relax in his retirement years? Did he take up weekly mornings on the golf course, watch TV, take long naps or go to movies? Hardly.
What he did was to start volunteering! He began to celebrate Holy Communion at worship services, and privately to residents, when requested, at the Niagara Lutheran Delaware Home where he was chosen Volunteer of the Year and also received a certificate of merit from the WNY Association of Homes and Services for the Aging for his commitment to care of the aging ill at that Home. When the facility closed its operation and all the residents were moved (in one day) out to The GreenFields, he followed them, increasing his participation in leading worship to twice monthly on Saturdays in order to continue his ministry to them, while still doing so at Niagara Lutheran Home on Sundays. Often he was asked to call on terminally ill residents (at both Homes) who had no church affiliation and several times requests came from family members to conduct a loved ones memorial or funeral service. That, eventually, led to his appointment as chair of the Homes Ethics Committee and to his chaplaincy. In fact, he even conducted a wedding at Hager Street a few months ago so the mother of the groom, a resident, could attend! Several years ago he was also called as a staff chaplain at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Buffalo and was awarded a Special Contribution Award from the federal government for his unique commitment to the mission of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He continues to serve at Veterans today.
Pastor Bob was ordained in 1953 and had served Lutheran congregations in Maryland, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois before accepting the call to Calvary, Eggertsville, 30 years ago and later, North Park. From the time he and his family arrived in the area, he served on innumerable boards and committees including the presidency of the Lutheran Council on the Niagara Frontier (which established the Niagara Lutheran Home 45 years ago) and offices in the Lutheran Coordinated Ministry of Buffalo, the Lutheran Foundation, Buffalo Area Metropolitan Ministry, Upstate New York Synod, ELCA, Erie County United Way, et al.
One wonders when he had time to look after his wife Margaret and four offspring, Philip A., Michael H. (Johanna), Cathy Luders (Robert) and John R. (Joanmarie) or even to cut the grass! Now, he and Margaret are doting grandparents of Stephanie, Laura Beth and Frank Wendelin and take time to travel to be with them. Chaplain Bob always has time for his family, second only to the Church of Christ. As this is written, he and Marge are in Arizona at a theological Elderhostel whose leaders are old time friends, their former high school choir director and his son who is Bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod ELCA. He has also become a member of the Society of the Holy Trinity, a group of clergy dedicated to pastoral piety, parish renewal and confessional accountability. An affable man who loves people, Pastor Bob has truly dedicated his life to the Triune God in quiet, unassuming ways, a true servant of the greatest Servant of all. The people of Niagara Lutheran are happy his path led him to serve the people of God at their facilities!
June R. Schillinger is Administrative Assistant to the President/CEO for the Niagara Lutheran Health System.
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