Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Ready for a Changing Chaplain Corps
By Deacon Christopher Christensen
As I reflect on my future as a Navy chaplain, I note the uniqueness of the chaplaincy. In few other places does a Catholic priest find himself in ministry to men and women training for, going to, and returning from war. The particular difficulties of military life, whether family related, job related, or battle related, place a particular strain on military personnel. The military chaplain has to bring spiritual tools to help God be welcomed by military personnel at the deepest level.
When I consider the Catholic chaplains before me, I stand in awe. I will follow in the footsteps of giants when I step forward to serve the heroic men and women who continue the U.S. tradition of military excellence. I look forward to working with people of their caliber, to being the priest in their midst, to ministering to their spiritual needs so that they can more effectively fulfill their duties to God, family and country.
This is a challenging, but exciting task, really a call. As with any divine calling, it carries the grace to fulfill it. Chaplains like Father Vincent Capodanno and Father Emil Kapaun, both Medal of Honor recipients and both on the road to sainthood, are shining examples of what cooperation with the grace of God can accomplish. These men inspire me and other chaplains, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
The face of the military is changing, and so is the chaplain corps. With increasing diversity in the military, chaplains continue to need to be ready to minister to any and all who come to them, and perhaps even more so than in the past. A chaplain must be as present as possible to all.
I look forward to service as a Navy chaplain. I have a few years before returning to active duty (I was a Navy surface warfare officer in a previous life), and I know I still have much to learn. I am humbled by the prospect of serving God and country in such a unique ministry. This ministry is a unique privilege, and one that I hope to carry out in that same tradition of excellence modeled by so many chaplains who have come before me.
Deacon Christopher Christiansen is a prospective U.S. Navy Chaplain and a seminarian at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.