A taste of the military apostolate

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Throughout our time in seminary, an important aspect of our discernment and formation is the time we spend on pastoral assignments. In addition to our summer parish placements in the diocese, we are engaged in a variety of ministries while away at seminary: visiting hospitals, nursing homes and prisons, teaching religious education or RCIA, serving the poor and bringing the Gospel to the streets. These opportunities allow us to experience something of what the life of a priest is like so that we can better discern God’s call and be formed accordingly.

 

For the past two years, my apostolate has been to serve the Catholic community at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Naples, a U.S. Navy base in Italy. We celebrate the Mass with the community, and as a deacon I’m able to preach the homily. In cooperation with the Catholic chaplain, we take part in many of the activities typical of any parish, such as religious education, youth ministry and Theology on Tap. A highlight of the visits is always sharing meals with parishioners, and I often leave edified by their consistent witness of authentic family life rooted in the Catholic faith. Many of our conversations have opened my eyes to the unique challenges of a military assignment overseas, such as living far away from home and having to adjust to a different lifestyle and culture. While at sea or on other deployments, isolation from family and difficulty accessing the sacraments become the norm.

 

While in many ways my involvement on base isn’t so different from what I would be doing at any American parish, I have been impacted deeply by the particular characteristics of a military community. As a child growing up in Stafford County, Va. I became accustomed to the constant going and coming of military families. As friends would leave for a new assignment, or move in from a faraway place, I often wondered what that would be like. My time at NSA Naples has given me an inside look, and for that I am thankful.

 

As I prepare to return to the Diocese of Arlington for full-time priestly ministry, I feel better prepared to understand and minister to the countless families in Virginia who have served or are still serving in the armed forces, and for whom the difficult realities of overseas assignments are a fact of life. Serving those who serve and protect the United States has been a privilege, and I am looking forward to doing the same back home.

 

Deacon Guilloux, who is from St. William of York Church in Stafford, is in his fourth year of theology studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019