After serving as a registered nurse for almost four decades, Brigid Stevenson has seen a lot.
In addition to her work in hospitals, she’s also cared for dying patients as a hospice nurse and built homes with Habitat for Humanity.
Her latest gig is donning a bullet-proof vest and riding along on 12-hour shifts with members of the Sealy Police Department as their first-ever chaplain.
“I find it really fulfilling,” Stevenson said. “It makes a difference. It benefits our community and the police too. Somebody’s caring for them. They’re heroes too.”
Stevenson, 72, is certified and ordained through the Crisis Chaplaincy of Texas and other organizations. She says the purpose of a chaplain is to help de-escalate tensions and free up officers to perform necessary functions.
“A perfect example here in Sealy was when the bridge was struck and collapsed on Highway 36,” she said. “Our police chief was working the scene of the tragedy and saw the family of the deceased person walking up to the scene. He went to the family and informed them of the death of their loved one, but then had to return to assist at the scene. If I had been chaplain at that time, I could have approached the family with Chief [Jay] Reeves and stayed with them until they no longer needed me.”
Stevenson moved to The Heights district of Houston from Orlando in 1978 and married her current husband Ken, a general contractor, in 2003. A few years later, the couple began spending a lot of time in Sealy to help Stevenson’s sister Kathy MacDonald finish building her home after her husband passed away.
“I fell and broke my knee so I just stayed [in Sealy],” Stevenson explained.
They fell in love with the community and moved in near MacDonald’s home, where they still live today.
Their home has flooded three times since 2007, which prompted the Stevensons to start attending Sealy City Council meetings.
“We’ve been very blessed because we had FEMA coverage,” Stevenson said. “We started going to council meetings to find out what they were going to do. I kind of stayed in their faces about it but I think it worked. I get along well with all of them. It holds them accountable.”
It was there that she met members of the police department, and while city managers, council members and police chiefs have rotated over the years, the Stevensons have remained a fixture, sitting on the same row every other week to see what’s happening in the town they love.
“Being on the council is a thankless job,” she said. “They’ve taken a lot of heat because of the costs of utilities. They’ve had to bite the bullet and make some tough decisions. I think we have a very effective council.”
Another thankless job, Stevenson said, is working for the police department.
“I’ve always been interested in supporting the police,” she said, noting that her brother Mike worked for Miami-Dade County law enforcement for many years. “I’ve always believed the police are the good guys.”
Stevenson’s friend Vera Adams has served as the chaplain for the Harris County Sheriff’s Department for five years and offered some guidance when she decided to approach Sealy PD about the chaplaincy. Stevenson scheduled a meeting with Chief Reeves and his command staff, who were immediately receptive to the idea.
“It provides support to the police and it doesn’t cost the city anything,” Stevenson said. “If [the officers] want to talk to me, they can. What’s said in the car, stays in the car.”
Since she took on the volunteer opportunity in July, she’s only had to sit down with one family who has lost a loved one. She stayed with them for two hours while the officer was able to return to the scene.
“I’ve made it clear to all the men and women that I’m available 24-7 for a death,” she said. “There are little things over the years where you see the hand of God. I feel like I was supposed to do this. At the end of a 12-hour shift, I feel like I did something. I feel good. I’m really blessed.”