Dear Friend of Church and Military,
Fall colors in the Washington area have vanished and the bleak signs of winter are appearing. Of course, that means that the holy season of Christmas is quickly approaching. The traditions surrounding our annual celebration of the Savior’s birth fill us with joy and a deep longing for that peace announced by the angels.
Parishes plan penance services and other activities, families gather, office personnel celebrates, and friends and neighbors decorate their houses and host parties. The birth of absolute Goodness, the Incarnation of the Son of God, reminds men and women that we are all brothers and sisters, children of God our heavenly Father.
Of course, for the men and women in uniform who serve our Country at home and abroad, holiday time is special, but my heart goes out to those who are deployed far from home and the warmth of their families.
I will spend Christmas with those stationed in Kuwait and Kyrgyzstan and perhaps in the Persian Gulf on the aircraft carrier USS John Stennis. Bishop Higgins will remain in the nation’s capital to celebrate Christmas at the installations of the Military District of Washington and at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Bishop Spencer will bring the joyful news of the Savior’s birth to those in Afghanistan. Bishop Buckon will celebrate these holy days with soldiers and their families at Fort Stewart, Georgia—home of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.
Thank you for making those pastoral visits possible. My flight to and from the Middle East will cost $2,500. Your generosity makes a difference. You allow us to fly far from these shores, visit, and celebrate the Eucharist with the troops who sacrifice themselves for our freedom and values. They appreciate the time and effort expended to confirm them in their faith. During these visits the expressions of gratitude abound.
Indeed these valiant men and women bend under the weight of combat and the tension provoked by an elusive enemy. They are anxious about their future and they are far from their loved ones. The long and frequent deployments to the Middle East take their toll on everyone: military, families, and our long-suffering chaplains who care for our brothers and sisters both during the deployment and afterward.
There is no doubt that service in the Armed Forces of our country at this point in time has damaged family life. The pressures and the uncertainty affect everyone. The syndrome of post-traumatic stress (PTS) has become a national health issue for the troops, chaplains, and veterans. Alleviating the burden depends on the willingness of each one of us to guide the returning veteran to a haven of trust and welcome.
This particular archdiocese without territorial boundaries also looks back and remembers those who have served in previous wars and are now cared for in the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and Clinics. In October, I met with almost one hundred VA chaplains who serve across the country. Their concerns are ours and providing for their pastoral care is another way that the Nation does not forget those who have generously served us in past conflicts and now in the current challenges. Thank you for all that you make possible.
How can you help in this process? First of all, continue to beg the Prince of Peace to end the time of the tramping boots and the garments rolled in blood, as the Holy Father prayed last Christmas at Midnight Mass. Then please invoke the loving Father for the healing of the victims of PTS. Furthermore, extend a welcoming hand to those in your community who are returning from deployment. You can make a difference for them and for their families. Finally, your financial support to the Archdiocese for the Military Services allows it to minister to the men and women in uniform and to support of the chaplains and their own process of healing.
There are still other concerns. The Archdiocese for the Military Services is actively planning for future ministry to its faithful. The 32 co-sponsored seminarians who are preparing themselves for the priesthood and military chaplaincy represent the best hope for that future. Your financial support allows the Archdiocese to meet half of their seminary expenses and to help the dynamic Director of Vocations seek even more workers for the harvest.
I boldly beg you to continue your support for this vast archdiocese. Christmas is the occasion when we remember the Gift of the Father to us. Each of us tries to respond by giving something we have received to those in need. Thanking you for your generosity to this Archdiocese in the past, I am also grateful for whatever help you can offer at the present time.
As I wish you abundant Christmas blessings, I thank you for your past generosity. Rest assured that you and your loved ones will be remembered in my prayers throughout the Christmas Season in the Middle East. May the Lord bless you with health and happiness throughout 2012!
With sentiments of gratitude, I remain
P.S. Please support and pray for our brave troops and the chaplains who help them during their deployment and afterwards, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq during the Christmas season. I pray that you will help this Archdiocese to continue to provide all of its programs of spiritual pastoral care.