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Minnesota National Guard
Seminarians learn about need for Catholic chaplains

By Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully
The Visitor

Seminarian John Drees peered out of the window of a Black Hawk helicopter as Camp Ripley, near Little Falls, came into focus

"We saw Camp Ripley I thought it was a town we were going over We saw the water tower and all the buildings," said Drees, who hails from St Mary of the Purification Parish in Marystown in the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis

A few minutes later, he, along with nine other students from St Paul Seminary in St Paul, emerged from the helicopter with the help of Minnesota Army National Guard soldiers The seminarians' black clothes and white Roman collars contrasted with the camouflage of the soldiers

"It was great to be received by the people who were there and Father [Jerome] Fehn right away They had a whole program set up, so we went right to a bus," Drees said Father Fehn is a Minnesota Army National Guard chaplain

The seminarians were invited to Camp Ripley Feb 4 so they could learn more about the need for ministry in the military, particularly priests to support military families and veterans The hope is one of the priests might hear a clear call to serve as an Army chaplain with the Minnesota National Guard, said Chaplain John Morris, state chaplain for the Guard


Facing a shortage

The military, Chaplain Morris said, is in need of Catholic priests In the Minnesota Army National Guard, there are more than 3,000 Catholic soldiers, but only one Catholic priest, Father Fehn Without priests, soldiers cannot receive the sacraments

"The US active-duty Army is short 200 priests That's difficult because when you consider combat, where men of all places and times most need a priest, we don't have enough," Chaplain Morris said

During the visit, seminarians listened to an overview of Camp Ripley from Col Scott St Sauver, ate lunch, participated in a simulation exercise, attended Mass and toured part of the camp before departing by helicopter Due to fog, the helicopter flight to Camp Ripley was delayed about two and a half hours During that time, Chaplain Morris talked to the seminarians about ministering to military families and the struggles of soldiers

"For myself and other guys, what drew us was we get to learn about ministering to military families and we get a trip in a Black Hawk I think most of us realized that the highlight wasn't necessarily the flying in the Black Hawk; it was meeting Chaplain Morris, seeing Col St Sauver's enthusiasm and learning what Camp Ripley was used for," Drees said

Moral and ethical issues

Throughout the day, the seminarians were invited to ask questions, and Chaplain Morris raised issues for thought and discussion After the simulation exercise, which involved shooting at virtual targets on a screen, Chaplain Morris challenged the seminarians to think about what soldiers are trained to do, their moral dilemmas and the ethical murkiness in war

He also asked the seminarians to think about the challenges of women in the military and explained that, unfortunately, rape often accompanies war Chaplain Morris encouraged the seminarians to think about how families of deployed soldiers are affected and to reach out to them as well as the soldiers and veterans

"The day as a whole, just getting a sense of what life is like as a military chaplain, hopping in helicopters, going out to visit troops and coming back to home base was really neat," said Paul Shovelain whose home parish is St Michael in St Michael

Shovelain is a seminarian co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis and the Archdiocese for the Military Services He plans to be a military chaplain in the future, possibly around 2017

"There is a great need for Catholic clergy in the chaplaincy, and there are a lot of great people in the military," Shovelain said "I really want to be there for the people"

Pictured above:
Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully/The Visitor
Chris Deaver, Joah Ellis and Andrew Windschitl, all seminarians from St Paul Seminary in St Paul, arrived at Camp Ripley via helicopter Feb 4
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