"I think what we do through ABCHS and the Certified Master Chaplain program is that we give an opportunity to our clergy who are actually doing a wonderful job, who are committed to what they do."
Dr. Jesus Manuel Huertas entered the ministry in 1984. His distinguished career has included two national awards by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and one by the Aleph Institute. Chaplain Huertas was part of the Crisis Support Team during the Timothy McVeigh Execution, and he also assisted during hurricanes Andrew and Rita. He retired from the position of Chaplaincy Administrator for the Mid Atlantic Region of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in June 2012. Chaplain Huertas currently provides consulting in the areas of chaplaincy, human communication, emotional intelligence, life coaching, and management strategies. He currently resides with his wife in Puerto Rico.
Q: Tell me about your background.
A: I am an Anglican clergyman in transition now to the Lutheran church. I've been in ministry for close to 30 years. Out of those 30 years, I've spent 20 years working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons as a chaplain. In that capacity I went from being a staff chaplain to being a regional chaplain, and several positions in between. In the midst of that experience in life, I achieved several national awards: 1997 Chaplain of the Year, 2006 National Administrative Position Award, and Chaplain of the Year in 2009 by the Aleph Institute, which is a Jewish organization. I have graduate degrees in public communication, mass media, and also theology and counseling. I have two grown children and three grandchildren.
Q: What was it like working in the federal prison system?
A: Well, working for the federal prison was quite an exciting time. It really was. It was very rewarding, always challenging. The agency was very, very thorough in the training of their staff. Every staff member is considered a correctional worker first. Because of that, we all have to go through training in the National Academy for Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. So we always had to keep a balance of our particular professional component, so if you were a chaplain or psychologist or teacher or doctor you also had to keep track of your correctional duties. It was always challenging, always interesting, always creative, and sometimes dangerous.
Q: How do you think the Certified Master Chaplain, CMC certification can help train new chaplains who want to work in the prison system?
A: Wow. Not to sound cliché, but really the sky is the limit. I think after being in the agency for this long and getting out of the agency and being a civilian for the last four months or so, I'm coming to realize that we don't have—in the general community—the same professional standards for chaplains. I think what we do through ABCHS and the Certified Master Chaplain program is that we give an opportunity to our clergy who are actually doing a wonderful job, who are committed to what they do. They are beginning to achieve a professional standard as chaplains and serve their community better, more effectively, and be able to be a part of this greater component that is the Federal Emergency Management Program and of course homeland security. Here recently I have talked to people in the border patrol who have an interest to improve their standard, and because some people know me, they have contacted me. So there is a lot that CMC and ABCHS can certainly do to improve the quality of chaplaincy in this country, not to mention even in the world.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to mention about the chaplain's program?
A: Well, I would like to certainly see this program expand. I think we have a jewel, something really valuable. A lot of people are what we typically call lay-chaplains—they are not clergymen or clergy people and they don't want to be. They do want to serve in chaplaincy positions in hospitals, prisons, and firefighting departments. I think those people are also a community we can reach out to with programs, if not the CMC then maybe a program tailor-made for them. I would like to see this program expand to its capacity, because in my opinion we are just beginning to scratch the surface.
Q: How are you enjoying the Executive Summit so far?
A: This is great. I'm just going to be honest with you. I arrived here and I was a little cautious I guess. Guarded and skeptical to a certain degree. Again, I come from an agency where everything that was done was quality work and every speaker was top notch, so I didn't know what to expect. But my goodness, I have been impressed. It has been outstanding. Everything. I mean, everything from the body language training that was excellent, very, very practical, very hands on. Then the opportunity to branch out to the other components that we have—American Association of Integrative Medicine—and to get knowledge there that was applicable to at least what I do.