SCOTTSDALE — Fred Peterson stood at the ambo and read from the Book of Hebrews. The 92-year-old World War II Navy veteran and parishioner of St. Mary Magdalene in Gilbert needed help getting to his feet during the Diocese of Phoenix’s annual Red, White and Blue Mass Nov. 4 at Blessed Sacrament Parish.

Lector and retired World War II Battle of Guadalcanal veteran Fred “Big Cat” Peterson of St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Gilbert reads from the Book of Hebrews at the annual Red, White and Blue Mass at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Scottsdale Nov. 4. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

Fred “Big Cat” Peterson served in Battle of Guadalcanal in 1943 — the clash between Allied and Japanese forces in and around one of the southern Solomon Islands in the South Pacific marked a turning point in the struggle to control the Pacific Theater. He spent 22 years in the military and said his heart was touched by the show of support, adding the bond among veterans never dies.

“I love every one of them. No matter what war they served in. We are all brothers. God created all of us.”

Yet, Peterson experienced something many of his surviving military colleagues — young and old — do not.

“Many of our veterans do not yet know this love of Christ. Or they have lost faith and trust,” Dcn. John Scott, Peterson’s fellow parishioner and a retired Army major general, told the 500 worshippers during his homily.

“We can help our veterans join us in seeing the saving grace of the Risen Lord, so they can experience His love, which alone can heal them.”

Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares celebrates the Diocese of Phoenix’s annual Red, White and Blue Mass at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Scottsdale Nov. 4. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

Celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares, the Mass was an expression of thanks to the men and women in uniform.

“I’m proud of our military,” Bishop Nevares said afterward. “They put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms. I’m very honored to celebrate Mass for them and pray for the protection, their defense and their families, because their families sacrifice so much in allowing their loved ones to join.”

Yet, the service also served as a reminder not all have come home from the battlefield emotionally, mentally or spiritually.

“We know on any one day there are more than 200 veterans on the street. A lot of them are into their 60s and 70s,” noted retired Navy senior chief intelligence specialist Jon C. Altmann from St. Bernadette Parish in Scottsdale.

“They need a lot of love and understanding,” Dcn. Scott pointed outside the sanctuary to reach veterans, encouraging the faithful not to be silent.

“It’s amazing what one invitation, one personal handshake, one kind word to a veteran in need — can begin,” he said. “We can first encounter our veterans and then invite them in to our faith, so they can experience the healing presence of a merciful Father. That Father loves them, no matter what they’ve done or what they have (had) done to them. We have to get outside our churches and engage the community around us.”

Alongside prayer and intercession for veterans, Dcn. Scott cited volunteering with organizations such as Catholic Charities, which operates the MANA House shelter, and the Crosier Community of Phoenix, which conducts monthly outreach meetings where veterans can talk faith or just share the burdens of their military past and life as a soldier now in the civilian world.

CrossWalk for Women

Doug Mattson, a retired Army veteran from St. Juan Diego Church in Chandler, attended the Mass and afterward spoke about CrossWalk, the Crosier Community’s program to help veterans explore how to find God and reclaim spiritual hope and healing. It is underwritten by Phoenix Rotary 100 and the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation.

“My wife just started one for female veterans to get together, discussing faith, Christ’s burden of the Cross and the challenges female veterans faced in uniform as well as after service.”

Veterans Day Around the Diocese of Phoenix


This veteran’s family will be enduring its first Veterans Day just two days after burying their airmen. His funeral Mass is Nov. 10 at St. Anthony of Padua in Wickenburg:


This is a tradition in Prescott:


One Catholic shared her recent Veterans-related memory:

Across the U.S.

The Mass will be livestreamed on EWTN. It celebrates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and should begin at the exact hour in Parish that armistice between the Allies and Germany took effect ending “the war to end all wars.”

Obituary for Bishop Robert A. Brucato, auxiliary for the Archdiocese of New York. He was a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force for 22 years at 12 military installations around the world before retiring from the military in 1982. He died Nov. 7.