In NCR's Sept. 3 print issue, Judy Gross writes about "the myriad pressures" of military chaplains. (See Spiritual leaders in the battle zones). She begins her story with Fr. Kenneth R. Beale, an active-duty Air Force major and chaplain who at the time of the interview was preparing for his ninth deployment since 1996.
Catholic News Service, today filed this story from the U.S. military archdiocese:
By Melanie Spencer
Catholic News Service
HOUSTON -- Although the word "veterans" might conjure up visions of those close to or at retirement, veterans today are just as likely to be young people left injured physically or emotionally by war, says Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services.
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The archbishop, who was scheduled to be in Houston Sept. 21 to attend a reception and dinner benefitting the military archdiocese, recently participated in an e-mail interview with The Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, about the rewards and challenges of ministering to Catholics in the military.
Q: How is ministering to military personnel, veterans and the families of both different than doing similar work with civilians, especially during a time of war?
A: Ministry to military personnel in wartime is challenging, because the priests are deployed with the troops, but their numbers are insufficient to meet the pastoral needs of those in the war zone. At the same time, the families of those who are gone still need the services, counsel and programs provided in peacetime. The same number of priest-chaplains must meet both needs.
tWhile the term "veterans" might bring to mind older individuals who are close in age to the retired of all times, it must be remembered that these wars have left many young people maimed and many others suffering from post-traumatic syndrome disorder. Their spiritual needs must be met and their families cared for.
tQ: Since your installation in 2008, what has been the most rewarding aspect of your work and why?
A: When I think of the ministry I am now privileged to exercise, those I serve immediately come to mind. Those in the military today and their families are among the finest people I have met. They are hard-working and generous. Their sense of gratitude for even the smallest service or gesture on my part is humbling. As I knelt to wash the feet of those serving in Baghdad on Holy Thursday in 2009, I reflected on the fact that a symbolic gesture really gave voice to the essence of this ministry: serving those who serve.
tQ: What has proved the most challenging aspect?
A: This ministry is challenging because of the shortage of priests, the distances that my auxiliary bishops and I must travel, and the constant need for funding. The fact that the Archdiocese for the Military Services has no regular source of income (there are no parishes and absolutely no government funds) means that the entire annual budget must be subsidized by the generous donations of others.
Q: How do you counsel Catholics in the military to stay true to the faith, while also staying true to their duties as soldiers?
A: Authentic patriotism flows well from an authentic Christian faith. Jesus taught us to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what belongs to him. Fundamentally, that means that the requirements of love of country mean service, fidelity, but also the ability to distinguish right from wrong. The military recognizes this by recognizing the value of conscience and the privileged nature of communications between chaplain and service member.
Q: What is your top priority in the coming year throughout the archdiocese of the military?
A: My top priority is to increase the number of Catholic chaplains in the military and to support and sustain our co-sponsored seminarians.
tQ: Is there a certain prayer you would ask Catholics to say for the military and for the work of you, your fellow priests, chaplains and lay ministers?
A: [Here is the] prayer of the Archdiocese for the Military Services:
tAlmighty God and Father, look with love upon our men and women in uniform and protect them in their time of need. Give them health and stability and allow them to return to their loved ones whole and unshaken. Be with their families and sustain them in these uncertain times.
Grant strength and peace of mind to the veterans who have given their best for the country they love. Support them in infirmity and in the fragility of old age. Teach us to remember their sacrifices and to express our gratitude.
tManifest your tender care to those in the military academies who prepare for future service and to those who serve our nation far from home. Teach us to remember the sacrifice of those whose efforts contribute to ensuring our way of life.
tBless and multiply the priests who minister to the faithful of the Archdiocese for the
tMilitary Services. Reward their generosity and keep them faithful.
Hear us as we present our prayers to you, through Christ our Lord.