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Reaching out to military families
CatholicMil.org founder works to share faith, experience with Catholic servicemen
Judy McCloskey has learned a lot about surviving in a military family. A parishioner of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, McCloskey is both a Navy wife and a mother of six, so she has firsthand knowledge of the sacrifices and struggles of faith that go along with a life spent serving one’s country.
Although she grew up Catholic in California, McCloskey remembers her family becoming very confused about the Faith after the Second Vatican Council.
“My whole family, the family I grew up with, was very Catholic, but got very concerned about what to do after Vatican II,” McCloskey said. “We were asking questions like ‘What about Mass? Do we just go twice a year now?’ They were honest questions. We were just a hardworking middle-class family trying to do the right thing, but nobody had the answers for us. Even the priests — the people we asked — didn’t know what was going on.”
The confusion led McCloskey and her family to drift away from the Church for a while. It was only after she became a Navy wife that McCloskey started to come back to the Faith. She was finally able to find the answers to her questions through the chaplain program and the local Catholic community.
In 2000, McCloskey realized she wanted to help other Catholic military families try to live out their faith, so she went looking for an organization that would help her do so.
“I served as a sleuth determined to find an already existing lay apostolate focused on the spiritual edification of Catholics serving in the U.S. military — some place I could volunteer and get this out of my system,” McCloskey said.
When she realized there was no such organization, McCloskey decided it was up to her to do it herself. That was when she started the Web-based apostolate CatholicMil.org, which was launched on Christmas Eve in 2001. McCloskey now works full-time using her own experiences to help offer guidance and comfort to other military families trying to stay balanced, whether they’re stationed overseas or at home waiting for their loved ones to return.
“I wanted to share what I had discovered with other military families and that’s exactly what I’ve done,” McCloskey said.
According to the Web site, CatholicMil.org works to “spiritually edify” military families who have immediate family members serving on active duty, while also promoting vocations to the Archdiocese for the Military Services and working toward the canonization of Father Vincent Capodanno, a chaplain who was killed while performing last rites for dying soldiers in Vietnam.
While McCloskey is pleased with the results of the Web site, she admits it’s been a huge challenge.
“If I knew then what I know now, would I have still started it? I’m not so sure,” McCloskey said. “It’s been exceptionally challenging, absolutely.”
The hardest part of starting the organization, according to McCloskey, has been trying to juggle the demands of raising her children — sometimes by herself while her husband was deployed — while building the organization at the same time.
“It’s like, you have an idea, you have a vision, but then, we’ve been at it for two years now and I still have children at home and my husband will be gone for months at a time and we’ll be geographically separated for years,” McCloskey said. “Where our family was — it was tough.”
She attributes the success of the Web site to the entire team of people who have worked on it and, of course, to God.
“It’s one of those things where it was going to happen,” McCloskey said. “God put a lot of the right people in my path and it was just like everything started to fall into place.”
Today, CatholicMil.org works nationally and is supported by the Department of Defense as well as Army, Navy and Air Force chaplains. The apostolate has also developed coalitions with other foundations, like the Fulton Sheen Foundation, the National Catholic Register and Catholic Answers, and has donated more than $1.16 million of Catholic supplies to troops stationed all over the world.
“CatholicMil is doing what we can to help the too few priests we have ministering to those who serve,” said McCloskey. “Team CatholicMil does our part, and God truly blesses our efforts. God makes the impossible a reality.”
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