While every Mundelein seminarian has answered the call to pursue the priesthood, several have also served in various branches of the United States military or are pursuing a “call within a call” as chaplain candidates for the Archdiocese of Military Services. In honor of Veterans Day this weekend, we thank and honor these men and all veterans for their faithful service to our country, which reflects Christ’s own service and sacrifice for our Church.
Father Carlos Rodriguez, Director of Spiritual Life and Army Reserve veteran, said, “Veterans make great seminarians. They understand commitment, they understand teamwork and they understand that missions are accomplished together. A priest is a soldier who is trained to fight on a different type of battlefield, the hearts and souls of God’s people, against an enemy that is a spiritual reality, evil.”
Deacon Mike Metz (4T Atlanta) is months away from ordination, after which he will spend three years as a priest for the Archdiocese of Atlanta and then serve as a military chaplain for an undetermined length of time. “I didn’t realize I wanted to be a priest until I saw an Army priest in action,” he said, “I thought, ‘I could do this forever and it could make me very happy.'”
The transition from military life to seminary life isn’t as straightforward as transferring military bases. Jordan Thrun (PTII Atlanta) experienced a reverse culture shock at Mundelein, stunned by foreign concepts like “free time” and the ability to hang pictures on his bedroom wall. Now adjusted, Thrun still experiences both worlds. One weekend each month, he drives to Fort Sheridan to shadow a military chaplain during drill exercises.
Fortunately, these seminarians don’t have to forge their paths alone, and a longtime faculty member that knows well the challenges of both military and seminary life is Father Patrick Boyle, S.J., who became an Army chaplain after he had been ordained for five years, and he served for 30, retiring as a colonel. A professor of moral theology, Father Boyle’s time in the military ranged from a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division to serving a year and half as a chaplain with the 1st Calvary Division in Vietnam (1969-71). His advice and stories are sought after by military and non-military seminarians alike.
We pray for these men and all of our military veterans and thank them for stepping up and serving, putting their lives on hold and sacrificing time with their families: “Help us, dear God, to see your face in every Veteran we encounter. Guide us as we imagine new ways to support Veterans and their families. Bring healing and peace to all who have been wounded physically, mentally and spiritually during wartime. Help us bring your saving grace to heal the invisible wounds of war. We ask this in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.” (More prayers for the military, veterans, and their families can be found here.)
Parts of this article were originally found in the Fall 2013 edition of The Bridge, and other parts will appear in the Winter 2017 edition. Archives of The Bridge can be found here.