Pentagon priest celebrates Mass at Fort McCoy with 34th Brigade Combat Team
June 23, 2011
FORT McCOY, Wis. -- Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Patrick Dolan’s message to 34th Brigade Combat Team (BCT) Soldiers was that the unit’s senior leadership personally cares about their Soldiers.
Dolan, a Roman Catholic priest, and the Assistant to the Chief of Chaplains, U.S. Army, Pentagon, celebrated Catholic Mass at Fort McCoy’s Catholic Chapel June 10.
The 34th BCT, with 3,200 members of the Minnesota Army National Guard, is undergoing mobilization training at Fort McCoy prior to deploying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“My visit to the 34th’s Soldiers is a chance to say ‘good luck’ to a deploying unit and help them, particularly as a chaplain, to do a better job,” Dolan said.
“Another reason for my visit was for me to add insight for the 34th’s senior leadership that was useful to them and to me,” Dolan said. Dolan is the pastor of two parishes in the Louisville, Ky., area. “My Army platoon is the entire U.S. Army National Guard chaplaincy.” He is the highest-ranking chaplain in the Army National Guard.
“I said Mass on a cot in a tent in the mud in a field in Korea when I was on active duty in 1990,” Dolan said. This time he had the comforts of Fort McCoy and the installation’s Catholic Chapel. “The Minnesota state chaplain, a friend of mine, asked me to come for the 34th, and represent the Chief of Chaplains office. We had a very nice prayer breakfast earlier in the day with more than 100 Soldiers attending.”
“This visit is a good way for senior Army leadership to connect with the Soldiers who will be deploying to a theater of conflict,” Dolan said. Dolan also heard individual confessions, the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation, before and after the evening Mass.
For Mass, Dolan had Chaplain (Maj.) Brian Kane concelebrate the service. Kane is with the 67th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, Nebraska Army National Guard, going through demobilization processing at Fort McCoy. Kane is the pastor of St. James Parish, Mead, Neb., and superintendent of Neumann High School in Wahoo, Neb.
A 34th BCT Soldier said he was appreciative of Chaplain Dolan’s visit and celebrating Mass. Maj. Matt Heffron, from St. Paul, Minn., and the BCT’s intelligence officer, said he came for the Mass, “to, first and foremost, meet Christ, and in a physical way to receive His Body and Blood and a chance to do it with others who believe in the same way.”
“That’s immeasurably important to me,” Heffron said. “I converted to Catholicism during my last deployment. I knew a priest chaplain as a point of contact for faith and sanity in the middle of difficult circumstances.”
Heffron said, “Confession is another way to meet Christ and experience His power, especially while at war. Confession is the ideal way to change and grow into the person God wants me to be. My faith informs my decision-making as an officer in a combat brigade where complicated decisions may be made, and well-worked-out ethical decisions will be made. My faith helps that. It helps me take God’s message of love and mercy into a simple yet difficult world and connect faith to being a Soldier.”
Following Mass, Dolan presented the 34th Soldiers with medallions and prayer cards, items that had been blessed by a Catholic bishop in St. Cloud., Minn., and sent to Fort McCoy. One medallion was of St. Joan of Arc, patron saint of Soldiers. The other had a Bible inscription from Joshua, 1:9, “I will be strong and courageous. I will not be terrified or discouraged. For the Lord my God is with me wherever I go.”