Joe Rainiero: better known as “Chaplain Joe”

Texaco retiree Joe Rainiero is proud of his gift of providing spiritual care to cancer sufferers and others with severe medical problems. “You have to be a communicator who can let people know your heart is right when you visit them in a hospital or help their family get through a tough time,” Joe says.

Fondly known as “Chaplain Joe” not only to patients and their families but also to his former working colleagues, he became an ordained chaplain in 1985 at the Assembly of God in Portchester, NY. He immediately began providing spiritual care at White Plains (NY) Hospital, located a few miles from Texaco’s headquarters in Harrison, NY. “I never had a problem balancing work and volunteerism though I had to be frequently on call for my job at Texaco.”

Until he retired from Texaco in 2001, Joe ran the executive garage, which often entailed driving the CEO, other company executives and distinguished visitors (including heads of state). “Jim Kinnear (Texaco CEO) trusted me to drive him, not least because I knew all the back roads in the tri-state area,” says Joe. “He also knew I played a good golf game, which often got me invited to play along with some of the executives.”

Joe was so well liked and respected at Texaco that he served on the company’s diversity committee and offered the final “toast” – actually a kind of non-denominational prayer” – when Texaco closed its headquarters at the time of its merger with Chevron in October 2001.

The next year he moved to Sun Lakes, AZ where he quickly resumed his volunteerism, making spiritual visits to patients at “seven or eight hospitals.” Shortly after his move to the Southwest, when Banner Gateway Medical Center opened in nearby Gilbert, AZ, Joe launched its spiritual care department. He continued visiting patients and helping their families in both practical and emotional areas. However, his biggest challenge was to recruit and train a staff of more than 50 volunteers.

“I started off by going to seminaries and recruiting some of their students and graduates, then training them as volunteers,” Joe explains. “I made clear early on that our job was to support patients and families going through a difficult journey. Sometimes the people wanted to talk, sometimes not. Either way, it was our job to be there for them.”

He also visited men’s groups, where he met retired pastors who became volunteers. And he expanded his search to a wide range of volunteers, including Mormons, Muslims and Buddhists, who could administer to the spiritual needs of patients who shared their religious beliefs. Joe has also done recruiting at CRA’s Phoenix/Valley of the Sun Chapter, where he is a member.

One of his most successful recruits was Terry Gott, who currently serves as head of the hospital’s spiritual care department.

“Joe recruited me several years ago to volunteer as a chaplain when my daughter was a patient at Banner Gateway,” said Terry. “Today, I am privileged to be the full-time head of the spiritual care department that is still being impacted by Joe’s tireless hours of service.”