Deacon Andy Kemp says his Catholic faith makes a big difference in his work as a paramedic.


Deacon Andy Kemp says his Catholic faith makes a big difference in his work as a paramedic.

March 3, 2014

Having faith helps Andy Kemp, a Toronto paramedic, make sense of the madness that is a regular part of the job.

"You can't predict Friday night to Monday morning what is going to happen," said Kemp, a deacon at St. Joseph Parish in eastern Scarborough when he's not on the job.

"You can have a beautiful sunny day and you can go to a really big car crash and be like 'I don't understand.' Scripture or the catechism or the doctrines of the Church, encyclicals, those are the things that help me make sense of the day."

After the patient has been delivered and the loose ends tied up, Kemp, who when not rushing people to the emergency room, comforts them through his ministry at Rouge Valley Health System, often takes a few moments to be before the Lord and thank him for being there.

"Afterwards when we've put our equipment together and finished the paperwork, I've taken a few moments just to kind of gather myself and to humble myself before the Lord for giving me the opportunity to be there," said Kemp, 51.

"It actually calms me, gets me strong for the next call (and) helps me clear my mind so that I can be 100-per-cent there for the next call."

Although Kemp, who regularly assists about eight patients each 12-hour shift, did not want to describe any one specific case he's responded to, he did say the nature of the calls can range from a traumatic injury from an accident to health complications surrounding medications and mental health concerns - all of which he considers a crisis.

"There are different types of crisis," said the 13-year veteran. "It doesn't have to be like TV blood and guts, it can be an emotional drain too."

It is not just Kemp who is aided by his spirituality while donning a paramedic uniform. The patients he attends to also benefit from Kemp's faith.

"Without judging, you see people as brothers and sisters and it is in your nature to love them and to care and to do the best that you can to help anyone."

Even on a slow day Kemp said he makes sure to pay homage to the Lord while at work.

"If I do have quiet time, I give it up to the Lord in prayer," he said. "To sit peacefully and not talk but listen, that is the best thing that I can do for me."

Rev. Todd Riley, a chaplain for Toronto Fire Services, said he wished more first responders had Kemp's spirituality.


Like Kemp, Riley believes answers to life's big questions - "Where did I come from, why is the world so messed up, what is the solution to the world's problems, what am I doing here, what is my reason for being?" - are rooted in faith.

"Not as many people lean on God as one would hope and so not as many people have a clear sense that there is a spiritual reason for me being here," said the pastor of Islington Baptist Church.

"Not many people operate from the perspective that I belong to God and I am supposed to serve him in everything that I do."

For Riley, spirituality is but one of the five pillars which support a healthy professional life. The other four are diet, sleep patterns, relationships and hobbies.

It isn't just Christians who hold this belief. Last month the Ontario Multifaith Council held its annual educational conference for police, paramedics and firefighters.


"We thought that with the diversity in our society today that spiritual education needs a revamp," said Pandit Sharma, president of the council. "We have to understand the interfaith element."

The conference sought to connect emergency service personnel with faith groups that could be resources when dealing with a crisis as a first responder.

Back at his station, Kemp said he will continue to keep his spirituality strong but generally silent while on the job.

"I don't thrust my Christian faith first in words. If any prayers were to be said, it would usually be quiet (and) kept to myself. Jesus set the example of going off to pray, so why not follow that example of going off to pray and just spending some quiet time."