Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My October family newsletter column

Dear Friends:

Looking around, they all looked very young. Essentially, summer ended for them a few weeks ago. The days are now about classes, the afternoons and evenings filled with very physical practice sessions. No matter how busy their schedule is, these are some teenagers who are being pressed to think about some pretty important things, not the least important of which is “What next?”

I celebrated mass with them. They were quiet and not inclined to sing. They were respectful, but a few were fidgety because they were unsure about when to sit, stand or kneel. They did not have to be there but they were respectful and thankful, never letting on that there might have been others places they preferred to be.

The mass I celebrated was not a daily mass with two CMH academic classes. It was not a Friday morning mass with a team of Crusader athletes. On Sunday, September 19th, I had the honor of celebrating mass for the US Air Force’s, 819th Red Horse Squadron. Under the command of Col. Greg Rosenmerkal (CMH ’84), the unit was at Fort McCoy in Tomah, WI for their last month of training before deploying to Afghanistan. This was their last Sunday before leaving, and no priest was scheduled to be there that weekend. I willingly offered to go and pray with these fine young men and women.

By the time you are reading this, the 819th, an engineering unit, will be building airfields and energy grids, digging wells and irrigation systems – all of this under the threat enemy fire.

After mass, a young man who looked younger than most of our juniors and seniors spoke briefly with me. He was clearly anxious, he had left home for basic training just a few weeks before. In a few days he would be carrying a weapon and literally building a nation. One thing he said sticks with me. After thanking me for coming he said, “Father, I miss my church back home.” When I asked about how involved he was, he bowed his head and said he hadn’t really gone to church since grade school. His parents didn’t really go, so he fell away. But, right then and there, he missed his Church.

At CMH, parents and school together hope that the young people in our care will never miss their Church. Always and everywhere, by knowledge, practice, and heartfelt choice, it is hoped that CMH students having a grounding in faith that will always be at hand no matter where life’s path take them, no matter what challenges confront them.

In the short time I was at Ft. McCoy I was extremely impressed by those young men and women. While their days and responsibilities are very different right now, I hope that how we prepare our kids will never leave them missing anything about the strengths rooted in lived faith, close family, and supportive community.

Blessings to all!

Fr. Paul Hartmann

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