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Churches set to honor veterans with Mass, outreach

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Frank Vassett, an Army veteran and a St. Maria Goretti parishioner, entertained crowds with his harmonica during the 2011 Red, White and Blue Mass. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Local Catholics are again planning ways to honor veterans of all ages this November for their faithful service to the United States.

St. Maria Goretti Parish in Scottsdale will host the Veterans Day Red, White and Blue Mass at 1 p.m. Nov. 9 for active duty, reserve and retired servicemen and women and their families. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares will concelebrate the Mass with Bishop William J. Dendinger of the Grand Island Diocese in Nebraska.

Bishop Dendinger, who spent 31 years as a base chaplain, cadet wing chaplain and performing other Air Force duties, will deliver the homily.

A flag and color guard ceremony will precede the liturgy with prayers offered for deceased veterans. The Mass is open to veterans of all faiths.

“There was a very special energy when we were singing all the patriotic hymns asking for God’s protection on the country,” Skye Hart, liturgist at St. Maria Goretti recalled of last year’s Mass.

Like last year, uniforms of all five branches of the military will be on display during the reception.

Nearby, at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, members are preparing for its first official outreach of a new service to veterans and military families. “Embracing Those Who Serve,” 3-6:30 p.m. Nov. 11, will recognize veterans and their families with a color guard presentation, barbecue, children’s activities plus a stress reduction presentation for veterans and an overview of military culture for civilians.

A drum circle will perform at sunset. A formal drum circle for veterans, sponsored by Arizona Rhythm Connections, will start meeting monthly at the Franciscan Renewal Center in December.

Special events like this are only part of the new outreach to veterans and their families, said Patti Sills-Trausch, director of Faith in Action at the Casa. The outreach is also focused on helping heal spiritually wounded veterans and their families and assisting with employment.

“The suicide rate, especially for young veterans, is just horrific,” Sills-Trausch said.

She hopes veterans and their family members can see the Franciscan Renewal Center as a place for hope and healing.

The key is understanding, said Dean Pedrotti, a member of the Franciscan community and coordinator of the outreach.

A young son of a family friend committed suicide three years ago, shortly after returning from deployment.

That led Pedrotti, a Phoenix firefighter, to immerse himself in learning military culture and he is now training first responders in Arizona.

He has partnered with the Arizona Coalition for Military Families to discover ways to help veterans and their families. Statistically, he knows parishes should be full of veterans, including those who are retired, and may need help.

“You don’t heal post-traumatic stress until you heal the soul wounds,” Pedrotti said.

As preliminary steps, members of the new effort hope to bring at-risk veteran and military families to the event. Some 67,000 veterans are homeless on any given night with another 1.5 million at risk due to poverty, lack of support networks and dismal living conditions, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

Veterans Day Red, White and Blue Mass

Details: 1 p.m. Nov. 9 with Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares at St. Maria Goretti Parish, 6261 N. Granite Reef Road, Scottsdale. Bishop William J. Dendinger of Grand Island, Neb., will be homilist.

Info: (480) 948-8380.

Embracing Those Who Serve

Details: Food, education and entertainment honoring veterans and family members, 3-6:30 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Franciscan Renewal Center, 5802 E. Lincoln Dr., Scottsdale.

Free for veterans and their family. Otherwise, barbecue is $10 adults, $5 for children under 12. Info: (480) 948-7460.

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