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 CNS Story:

MILITARY-CHAPLAINS Jul-3-2013 (870 words) With photos. xxxn

Archbishop Broglio calls it 'an honor' to serve members of armed forces

By David Cooley
Catholic News Service

COVINGTON, Ky. (CNS) -- As Americans gather to celebrate Independence Day, many will remember in prayer the soldiers who have fought and the families who have sacrificed for the nation's freedom.

Those same soldiers and families will no doubt remember the military chaplains who have served them in the field and on military bases all over the world.

Religion and faith are important aspects of U.S. history, including its military history.

"You know it's interesting that when George Washington was given the commission to command the Revolutionary militia, he wanted chaplains," said Archbishop Timothy M. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services. "Of course, there were no Catholic priests among those that he asked because the number of Catholics was very small and they didn't enjoy too many rights in the 13 original Colonies.

"But, the fact that he wanted chaplains right from the very beginning of our history as a nation is interesting," the archbishop said in an interview with the Messenger, newspaper of the Covington Diocese.

He said President James Polk, for political reasons, wanted the presence of Catholic priests during the Mexican-American War to try to dispel the notion that it was a war waged by Protestant America on Catholic Mexico.

Archbishop Broglio was installed to head the military archdiocese Jan. 25, 2008. The archdiocese also has four active auxiliary bishops. Day-to-day operations are handled at its Washington-based headquarters.

The archdiocese provides the full range of the Catholic Church's pastoral ministries and spiritual services to the men and women -- and their families -- who serve in the nation's five military branches, as well as patients at Veterans Affairs medical centers and Foreign Service personnel working outside the United States.

According to its website, www.milarch.org, the archdiocese currently serves more than 220 installations in 29 countries, patients in 153 VA facilities and federal employees -- such as ambassadors, diplomats and contractors -- working in 134 countries. Its mission statement says the archdiocese is responsible for more than 1.8 million men, women and children.

"Approximately 25 percent of the men and women in uniform and their families are Catholic. And so, they have a right constitutionally and also as men and women of faith to practice their religion freely according to their conscience," Archbishop Broglio said.

"As you raise your right hand (to take an oath to serve) as an officer or as an enlisted person," he continued, "you do not renounce your First Amendment rights to the freedom of religion -- you also do not surrender your right as a Catholic to have the ministry of a priest, access to the sacraments, Catholic formation and counseling in accord to the precepts of our faith."

Vocations to serve with the military archdiocese primarily come from men in the military who hear the Lord's call to the priesthood or those who have been raised in military families, Archbishop Broglio said. However, there also are others who see it as a vocation within a vocation and ask to be considered as a chaplain candidate.

Chaplains generally come from dioceses or religious orders willing to release a priest for a period of time to be a military chaplain. He must have completed at least three years of pastoral ministry as a priest in his home diocese.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services also has what it calls the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, a partnership between the archdiocese and local dioceses and religious communities around the country to support young men called to pursue priestly vocations, both in their home dioceses or religious communities, and in the military.

Currently, there are 34 co-sponsored seminarians; 40 are expected in the fall.

"Every year one of my auxiliary bishops or I visit every installation and we celebrate Mass, we celebrate confirmation, we try to meet with the local commanding officers and we try to spend time with the Catholic community," Archbishop Broglio said.

The archbishop shared a story that highlighted the kind of impact the Catholic Church can have on service men and women.

Over Memorial Day weekend, the archbishop and other archdiocesan officials led a group to Lourdes, France, as part of an international military pilgrimage to the famed shrine.

"This year we took with us a fair number of wounded warriors and I was talking to one of them after the opening Mass," Archbishop Broglio recalled. "He was telling me how he had been wounded in Iraq and that this was actually his second trip to Lourdes. He was in a wheelchair and he said that on his first visit his face was paralyzed almost like a stroke victim, but probably more from shock than anything else.

"After he went to the grotto and bathed in the waters that paralysis disappeared. It was very moving to see his face and it was moving that he would even recount how he had been touched and how this visit to Lourdes had really affected him."

About his own ministry Archbishop Broglio said, "What I enjoy most are the people that I am privileged to serve. They really are wonderful men and women. They are dedicated. They are firm in their faith and it is really an honor to minister to them."

- - -

Cooley is assistant editor of the Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Covington in northern Kentucky.


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