‘The Rev’ remains ready to help in Buffalo Grove
Bruce Peters, director of the Buffalo Grove Chaplaincy Program, throws out the first pitch Aug. 29 for the village's annual benefit softball game between the Chamber of Commerce and the City Hall staff.| Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 11, 2012 11:54PM
BUFFALO GROVE — If Bruce Peters’ phone doesn’t ring overnight, that means its was a good night for Buffalo Grove.
During the past 16 years, dozens of families have had to met Peters for the first time in the wee hours — and every time, that means danger, loss or tragedy.
Peters, 54, is the head of the Buffalo Grove Chaplaincy Program, a union of Catholic priests, Jewish rabbis and Christian ministers that comes to the aid of individuals and families that have just seen their house burn down, lost a loved one in a crash or suicide, or been victimized by a criminal.
Working with the Buffalo Grove police and fire department since the mid 1990s, Peters has answered all of those calls — some in the middle of the night, many during the dead of winter, and others after thunderstorms that may have affected his own property. And he added that he has no plans to stop.
“Most chaplains, after five years, burn out,” Peters said. “I’ve never had a thought about stepping back. I just constantly have in mind that there’s more to do.”
And the list of groups wanting him to do more is long: Naval Station Great Lakes, the Lake County Crimestoppers, first responders in Mundelein and more. Besides his contributions to emergency scenes, Peters is an ordained permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Every year, Labor Day weekend is an important time for the local Chaplaincy Program. The members of the Buffalo Grove Area Chamber of Commerce square off against the leaders at Village Hall in a softball game to raise money for the group. Peters and his colleagues took in more than $600 after the Aug. 29 matchup.
Lynne Schneider, executive director of the chamber, added that the game also serves as an annual mechanism to raise awareness for the chaplains’ work.
“It’s just a fun game to kick off Buffalo Grove Days,” Schneider continued. “We work together, we play together.”
The Chaplaincy Program was founded by a former Buffalo Grove deputy police chief, the late Ronald L. Gozdecki.
The chaplain role has been a perfect fit for Peters, who said he has sought to stay close to God his entire life. He also is experienced to handle emergency situations because he previously was a police officer in Des Plaines and he still is an on-call firefighter in Mount Prospect.
Recalling his first day as a cadet in a Chicago police academy, Peters said the instructors asked the new class if any of them had ever stolen something or used drugs. Peters was the only man who did not raise a hand, he said. The others quickly nicknamed him “the Rev” after that.
A career in public service followed, and after its conclusion, Peters said his desire to work with the Bible grew stronger. A friend suggested the he look into becoming a deacon, and he earned that title in 1996.
While ministering at St. Mary in Buffalo Grove, he asked around to see if the church had anyone connected with the local police or fire departments. The answer was no, Peters explained, so he connected himself.
With decades of experience in emergency and tragic settings, he said he has become adept at consoling nearly any shocked victim.
“I know the drill, and I can explain to the family what’s going to happen,” he said. “I can be their friend, I can be their shepherd.”
Attention to detail is crucial, he added, and anything that can restore someone’s sense of normalcy can be a tremendous comfort. When a fire burns a house down, all of its occupants — both two-legged and four-legged — need a place to stay, and Peters has made arrangements with a Buffalo Grove hotel to take in such victims and their pets.
“We want to keep the family together as much as possible,” he said.
Recently, Peters overcame his own emergency: a life-threatening combination of pneumonia, strep and bronchitis that had him hospitalized. Walking with the help of a cane while recovering, Peters said his intention is to continue answering more calls.
“If I can make this world a better place than the way I found it, then I’ve won,” he said. “As long as the good Lord will give me my health, and the strength, and the power to continue on, I’ll be there.”