Priest calls serving alongside navy members as Army chaplain ‘humbling’

Father Lukasz J. Willenberg, a U.S. Army chaplain, greeted new recruits on this undated picture. A priest of the Diocese of Windfall, R.I., he was stationed at Fort Leonard Wooden, Mo., the place he served as a chaplain within the Primary Fight Coaching unit, welcoming 600 new recruits every week for a 10-week cycle of coaching. (CNS Picture courtesy of Rhode Island Catholic)

By Rick Snizek

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — As a lot as Father Lukasz J. Willenberg misses being a part of an everyday parish household again residence within the Diocese of Windfall, ministering to members of the U.S. Army as a navy chaplain for the previous eight years has introduced him an unparalleled stage of pleasure.

A former assistant pastor at St. Luke Church in Barrington, Rhode Island, Father Willenberg was practically 5 years into his priesthood when, in 2013, Windfall Bishop Thomas J. Tobin granted him permission to function a chaplain with the U.S. Archdiocese of the Army Companies.

The priest needed to serve his newly adopted nation whereas persevering with to function an incardinated priest of the Diocese of Windfall.

A aggressive triathlete, the native of Dzialdowo, Poland, was well-prepared bodily to enter the navy world, the place he rapidly discovered that the chance to talk acronym-filled language, put on the identical uniform and share the identical dangers as his fellow courageous warriors was “humbling and rewarding.”

“Our service members and their households have a spirit of selfless service and a willingness to sacrifice for a trigger larger than themselves and that’s noble and worthy of respect,” Father Willenberg instructed Rhode Island Catholic, Windfall’s diocesan newspaper.

He made the feedback in a latest interview as he was settling in and unpacking for one more new project.

This posting has introduced Father Willenberg to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the place he’ll minister on the discipline grade stage to Inexperienced Berets. The priest was promoted to the rank of main Oct. 1.

That is his second stint with the Special Forces group, recognized for being essentially the most skilled and most expert “quiet professionals.”

Such chaplaincy assignments require the most effective the Army has to supply when it comes to non secular resiliency, bodily health, psychological toughness, technical proficiency and ethical character.

His earlier project was at Fort Leonard Wooden, Missouri, the place Father Willenberg was a chaplain within the Primary Fight Coaching unit for 14 months, welcoming 600 new recruits every week for a 10-week cycle of coaching, shaping the way forward for the Army.

“It was such an important alternative to be there for these ‘children,’ serving them, hopefully enriching their lives, and bringing them the sacraments on every day foundation,” he stated.

The most effective a part of the project for him was the celebration of 1 Sunday Mass that attracted greater than 1,300 trainees. He felt blessed to have the chance to share the Eucharist with so many trustworthy without delay.

He had seemed ahead to that Mass for an entire week in anticipation of the prospect to carry Christ to so many who expressed feeling “drained and burdensome” as they ran by way of their drills.

Father Willenberg has served the non secular wants of his fellow troops in a number of precarious conditions, together with his posting to ahead working bases in Afghanistan.

It was in 2014 that the triathlete organized the restive nation’s first formally sanctioned Boston Marathon Afghanistan, a yr after finishing the stateside race himself.

“I feel I’ve God on my facet,” Father Willenberg joked in a 2014 phone name with Rhode Island Catholic from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, the place he completed the race in 2 hours, 44 minutes and 59 seconds — about 11 minutes quicker than his 2013 end within the Boston Marathon.

In 2016, Father Willenberg broke the document for finishing the quickest 12-mile march by any soldier to graduate from the U.S. Army’s elite DeGlopper Air Assault College in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

On the time the priest was 2nd Battalion chaplain of the third Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division’s 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He broke the long-standing document for the march by a full seven minutes, ending the predawn trek in a single hour and 42 minutes.

The foot march served as the ultimate endurance check in a grueling, 10-day coaching course by which solely 65 of the greater than 100 troopers within the class graduated the “Go” or “No Go” system.

As a part of the course, troopers had been subjected to all the things from time-competitive rappelling — together with a 90-foot “Hollywood Rappel” out of a hovering UH-60A Blackhawk helicopter — to using the abilities wanted to order a 9-line MEDEVAC (“9” stands for 9 varieties of info transmitted within the name) or to order call-in air assist.

The march was the capstone of coaching generally known as “the ten hardest days within the Army.”

As a lot as these bodily exploits and others showcase the pace, power and teamwork by way of which the U.S. navy defends the nation’s freedom, the members and their households additionally depend on navy chaplains to assist them strengthen their non secular lives as effectively.

The U.S. Archdiocese for the Army Companies is entrusted with the pastoral care of 1.8 million Catholics in the US and world wide, together with women and men serving within the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Pressure, Marines, Area Pressure and Coast Guard, together with their households; sufferers in Veterans Affairs Medical Facilities; and U.S. authorities workers and their households outdoors the nation.

Father Willenberg, 41, stated it’s positively “a calling inside a calling,” for him to serve the non secular wants of the service members and their households.

“It’s a present that I don’t deserve and by no means will, however a present for which I’m grateful each single day,” he stated. “I’ve been prayerfully reflecting on the generosity of our loving God who known as me to priesthood, his grace and his divine windfall that led me to share my priesthood as an Army chaplain.”