Dear Friend of our Church and Country,
I pen these lines just before my plane leaves for a quick pastoral visit to Camp Darby in Livorno and the National Prayer Breakfast at the Kaiserslautern Army Installation. It will be less exotic than last year’s February pastoral excursion to Djibouti, but, as always, a good opportunity to visit the men and women in uniform and their families.
Of course, travel has been my principal activity since my departure for the Middle East last December 16th. On that afternoon I flew to Abu Dhabi and began a marvelous pastoral visit to four locations. The chaplains planned each visit with extreme care and the joy of spending time with those far from home was precious indeed.
My time at the Air Force Base in Abu Dhabi and aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln was spent without the benefit of my checked luggage. A few local purchases and a well-packed carry-on got me through that first week. The suitcase “appeared” the day I disembarked from the aircraft carrier. However, that inconvenience paled into insignificance in comparison with the privilege of ministering to the officers, troops, and our Catholic Chaplains. Our Catholic brothers and sisters are so pleased with a visit and even those of other faith groups warmly welcomed me. The opportunity to celebrate the central mysteries of our Faith is precious, especially when the congregation is made up of those far from home at holiday time.
Father Mark Rowan, a priest from Rockville Centre, who is a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, was the motor behind the pastoral visit. He has spent so much time in down range and in the Middle East that he jokingly refers to his time at home as his “deployment to the States”. He made certain that the program in Qatar included a visit to the local parish. Before Midnight Mass I preached at the Lessons and Carols, an ecumenical service held under a canvas roof! Even the two Rabbis helped to take down the chairs after the event!
At all three stops, I celebrated confirmation and in Qatar also baptized two of the airmen. My final visit was a return to Bahrain. The relative calm there did not announce the unrest that came last month. Recent events remind us that tension in the Middle East is never far from the surface.
That makes my pastoral visits all the more important. It is useful to offer these valiant patriots words of comfort and a message of solace. Post traumatic stress (PTS) continues to be a concern in this Archdiocese. The chaplains are well-aware of the hardships and the burden of frequent deployments. They exert themselves to help the men and women in uniform and their families so that the trauma does not become a disorder. I am impressed by the excellent ministry of all of the priests I visited.
The occasion is propitious to thank you for making these pastoral visits possible. Travel to the Middle East and Europe is expensive and would have been impossible without your generosity. I am constantly aware of how dependent I am on your participation in the ministry of this global Archdiocese. I truly experience how universal our Church is!
We are once more in the midst of our annual Lenten pilgrimage. The liturgy often uses the image of a struggle to describe our efforts to develop our prayer life, cultivate virtue, and avoid evil. Traditionally, the Church recommends prayer, reading the Bible, frequenting the sacraments, doing penance, and giving alms as the best practices for our pilgrimage. These are good ways to develop our relationship with the Lord.
Your Lenten alms offered to the Military Archdiocese will be multiplied in outreach to those I am called to serve. My Auxiliary Bishops and I continue to be itinerants in preaching the Gospel and confirming the faith of those in uniform and their families.
As we engage in the annual spiritual retreat of the whole Church, we frequently hear references to the struggle between good and evil. We recognize that struggle in our lives, but we see it vividly in the news media on a global scale. The pastoral ministry of the Archdiocese for the Military Services attempts to “arm” our young men and women with the tools of the faith so that they can also be disseminators of the Gospel. Will you help me this Lent?
With sentiments of constant gratitude, I remain
Sincerely in Christ,
(Most Reverend) Timothy P. Broglio
Archbishop for the Military Services
P.S. Surely your heart has compassion for those who serve, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq, during the Lenten Season. Please pray for our brave troops and the chaplains that help them during their deployment and afterwards. I pray that you will help this Archdiocese to continue to provide all of its programs of spiritual pastoral care. Please follow this link to donate online.
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