[dropcap type=”4″]A[/dropcap]s Veterans’ Day approaches, Church leaders are planning ways to honor veterans and actively serving military, but they’re also developing ways to ensure veterans experience the spiritual healing that eludes many.
An array of color from uniforms, stripes and flags will again surround the annual diocesan Red, White and Blue Mass Nov. 2 at All Saints Parish in Mesa. Fr. Mike O’Neil, a retired Navy chaplain who served in Vietnam, will give the homily.
A day prior, the parish is hosting the first retreat for veterans and their families based on the three centurions in the New Testament. Catholics recall the words of one of them at every Mass prior to receiving the Eucharist: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Deacon John Scott, a Vietnam veteran of the Army, said the retreat is an opportunity for veterans to reflect on times in Scripture when veterans are healed.
“The hardest person to forgive many times is yourself,” Deacon Scott said. That can be especially true for veterans. Scott said veterans of current wars and those of the past need opportunities to facilitate spiritual healing. The deacon has found that veterans who received services through the Veterans Administration when they were younger return decades later still in search of inner peace. Veterans of Desert Storm and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are now taking similar paths.
He wants veterans to remember that Jesus and the Church are there for them, regardless of their past.
“When you lay out your burdens in front of Him, He picks up the heaviest ones and takes you on your journey,” Deacon Scott said. “Our parishes are houses of mercy where you can go and someone will sit down and talk to you and say, ‘It’s okay. You can be healed.’”
He acknowledged the amount of trauma in modern warfare.
“Veterans — I’m talking about young to old — have seen things, done things, had things happen to them that are far more traumatic than the average person,” Deacon Scott said.
He has been working for several years to foster opportunities for sharing and healing in the Diocese of Phoenix. He said it’s ultimately about saving souls.
That’s a similar mindset the Ministry for Military Families has at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale.
The Crosier Community of Phoenix is looking to strengthen its ministry to veterans too. It’s launching an innovative program next month that offers spiritual guidance especially for those experiencing combat stress.
The pilot group will meet eight times over the next four months and reflect on the Stations of the Cross. A spiritual director and facilitator will oversee the group with the goal of publishing a Veterans Way of the Cross. Older veterans not experiencing combat stress will serve as mentors.
“We’re hoping they can come away with a spiritual assessment and a sense of spiritual alert,” Crosier Father Bob Rossi said.
Deacon Scott hopes the networking of veteran outreach in the Church continues so pastors and deacons can refer to a compiled list of resources for veterans across the diocese.
Veterans Retreat: 9 a.m., Nov. 1, All Saints Parish, 1534 N. Recker Road, Mesa
Red, White and Blue Mass: 11 a.m., Nov. 2, All Saints Parish, 1534 N. Recker Road, Mesa