Longtime St. Alexius chaplain retiring
By Ashley Wright
The Rev. Darrel Aleson is known for his sense of humor, quirky ties and many other things, but mostly for his dedication to being a chaplain at St. Alexius Medical Center.
He retires at the end of December after 25 years at St. Alexius and a total of 43 years in ministry for the Methodist church.
“I am still very much in love with my work,” he said. “It has always been exciting and challenging, and I’ve always had a strong team behind me.”Aleson also is a published artist, a pilot who has built his own aircraft, a musician, a husband of 44 years and father of two.
Numerous colleagues have noted his love and dedication for his work.
Among them is Marv Mutzenberger, who met Aleson in the ‘70s when Mutzenberger was a Lutheran pastor in Minot and Aleson was a minister in Williston.
“He is a model pastor and a model chaplain,” Mutzenberger said. “Patients and staff have been richly blessed by his kind and warm ministry there.”
Aleson’s father was pastor and he was involved in church and ministry from Day One.
“I could say my understandings of ministry go back almost to the womb,” he said.
Growing up, he resisted initial expectations from various churches, family and friends that he would become a minister, but he finally gave in to the call of ministry in 1971.
“Ministry was always something I kept in the back of my noggin,” he said. “It was on the back burner, something I kept at bay. After medical school, I realized my heart was there in ministry and it was a difficult choice I made to switch.”
His identical twin brother followed in his footsteps and served 30 years as an United States Air Force chaplain.
Ministry in a medical setting was a natural direction to follow due to his educational background, he said. He spent some of his early pastoral education in medical settings in Denver while attending the Iliff School of Theology.
He began his ministry career at Holmes United Methodist Church and served for many years at various churches in North Dakota.
It was during his time in pastoral ministry from 1984 to 1988 in Whitefish, Mont. – where he also served at Glacier View Hospital in Kalispell – that he felt pulled toward hospital ministry.
When a position opened at St. Alexius in 1988, and he felt it was time to follow that ministry and come home to North Dakota.
“Seasoning in the other areas really helped my ministry as a chaplain,” he said.
During his time at St. Alexius, he has learned the importance of meeting people where they’re at and learning to talk less and listen more, he said.
“One of my favorite job description statements says: ‘We are called to pull back the curtains to reveal Christ, then to hide ourselves in the folds,’” he said. “I’ve found there is strength in a silent presence. I don’t have all the answers, but I can share your questions and help find ways of coping.”
That often means connecting with people of other faith traditions that vary from his own.
“Just this past week, I met with someone of the Hindu tradition,” he said. “I have learned that we are all connected, and that I have to facilitate space for people to tap into their own source and recognize their own sources to find their own answers.”
Aleson has been awarded two St. Alexius Higher Standard Awards, given to staff who consistently demonstrate a commitment to customer service and significantly exceed performance requirements by living the mission and values of St. Alexius.
“He has been very faithful to his ministry and has been very generous of his time and meeting the spiritual needs of our patients,” said Sister Renee Zastoupil, director of spiritual services at St. Alexius.
Aleson also has served in various churches in North Dakota during his time as a chaplain, including churches in Wing, Driscoll and Underwood.
“I enjoy keeping up with my roots as a parish pastor,” he said.
In his retirement, he will be the visitation pastor at McCabe United Methodist Church.