Priest Called to Serve – in the Army
Hornell Evening Tribune
story by Rob Montana, photo by Lynn Brennan
June will mark four years since Father Patrick VanDurme first arrived in the Canisteo Valley â€” it also will mark his departure.
VanDurme, 42, made the first public announcement of his departure at Saturdayâ€™s 4:30 p.m. Mass at St. Annâ€™s Church, and will tell parishioners the same thing at this morningâ€™s worship service.
He is leaving to become a full-time Army chaplain, and will be entering three months of basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., starting June 8. VanDurme said the decision did not come lightly, but felt it is something heâ€™s being called to do.
â€œOver the last few months Iâ€™ve become almost scandalized about how few priests there are in the military,â€ he said, adding that there are roughly half a million people enlisted in the Army, but only around 100 priests serving them. â€œIâ€™ve had conversations with people on active duty; one guy said in the last 18 months, heâ€™s had Mass three times.
â€œItâ€™s really gotten to my heart. Whoâ€™s taking care of these kids?â€ VanDurme added. â€œThis has nothing to do with my politics, thatâ€™s not the issue. Itâ€™s really a very strong conviction. These men and women are in the worst situation, theyâ€™re in life-and-death situations, and they donâ€™t have someone to pray with, someone to hear their confession or offer Mass for them.â€
He will undertake basic training through June, July and August, revisiting the training facility he was at 24 years ago going through boot camp for the Army Reserves. As for where heâ€™ll be after basic training is done, VanDurme said heâ€™s unsure, but wouldnâ€™t be surprised if he winds up overseas.
â€œIâ€™ll probably end up going to Iraq or Afghanistan,â€ he said, â€œbut I wonâ€™t know where Iâ€™m going until after basic training.â€
The fact that he turns 43 in March also played into VanDurmeâ€™s decision to go for it now. He said the cut-off point for people entering the military is 45 years old.
â€œI was thinking of all the priests I know, and you immediately have to take out everybody whoâ€™s over 45,â€ VanDurme said. â€œThat leaves you with a small handful of people, then you have to take out people because of family needs or donâ€™t have the personality to do it, and you really get down to a very small number.
â€œIf not me, who is going to do it?â€ he added.
First, though, VanDurme had to get permission from Bishop Matthew Clark, leader of the Diocese of Rochester. He said it took several months of meeting and praying to convince Clark it was the right thing for the priest to do.
â€œIt was a very difficult decision for him. He struggled with it,â€ VanDurme said. â€œWhen I first said I wanted to do it, he kind of scratched his head and said â€˜Pat, I donâ€™t know if I can let you go,â€™ because he didnâ€™t have enough priests in his diocese.
â€œHis decision came down to while we have a responsibility here, we have to think about how many young men and women, and their families, of this diocese are in the military. Even if theyâ€™re not in the area, they are still part of the diocese,â€ he added. â€œAnd, the diocese has to release you; thatâ€™s the weird thing. You canâ€™t become a priest for the Army. You become a priest for a diocese and they have to release you.â€
VanDurme also stressed his decision was not related to changes in the parish since heâ€™s come on board. He was the priest here when Our Lady of the Valley Parish was formed, as well as for the closings of St. Joachimâ€™s Church in Canisteo and St. Ignatius Church in Hornell. VanDurme also was the leader of the parish when the decision was made to tear down St. Annâ€™s Rectory and to sell St. Ignatius. Those decisions were met with anger, sadness and displeasure from many communicants of the parish.
â€œI really want people to understand this is not because of the difficulties weâ€™ve had in our parish. The truth is that itâ€™s not,â€ VanDurme said. â€œI really struggled with that, to make sure it wasnâ€™t, because if it was, then Iâ€™m doing this for the wrong reasons.
â€œI just came back from spending the last three weeks away on retreat, most of it as silent retreat, and I spent that time really praying and asking myself if I was doing this for the right reasons. I just wanted to make sure I got my head on straight,â€ he added. â€œAnd, I really believe God is saying, â€˜Pat, this is a good thing.â€™ I really believe Iâ€™m following where God is calling me.â€
As for his replacement, VanDurme said thatâ€™s unknown at this point. The diocese will be listing the parish as open in the next several weeks, and priests will apply to be stationed in Hornell.
â€œThen the board and bishop will figure out who is the best person for the job,â€ VanDurme said. â€œThey will assign them to the parish.â€ He said that decision likely will not be made until April or May.
Table of contents for Military Chaplains
- Jesus Walks the Battlefield
- Father Martin C. Hoehn
- Church: Chaplains are heroes, too.
- Chaplain Gave All-Chaplain (Major) Henry T. Vakoc
- Father Vincent Capodanno
- Father Elmer Heindl
- Father Heindl Saved America
- Father Leo – Saving Souls in Iraq
- Father (Capt.) Emil Kapaun
- Priest Called to Serve – in the Army
- Former Stunt Man Makes Leap to Airborne Ministry
- Female Chaplains Serve God and Country
- West Point Priest in Iraq
- Father Tim Never Surrendered
- Guard Member Earns Chaplain of Year Award
- Aiding God and Country: Chaplain Assistants
- To one Marine chaplain, karma is everything
- New Zealand chaplain making a difference to Afghan orphans
- St. Elijah’s Monastery in Iraq
- Captain Dale A Goetz KIA
- Mass celebrated in a far away land
- Serving God and the troops in Kyrgyzstan
- A breeze and a Bible changed her life
- Our Best: Spc. Heather Lane
- Military service a testimony of faith
- Father Emil Kapaun to be awarded Medal of Honor
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This entry was posted on Sunday, February 3rd, 2008 at 3:15 pm and is filed under Religion, Catholic Church, Military, Religion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.