At Vatican, U.S. chaplains study post-traumatic stress syndrome
Like chaplains in the U.S. military around the world, a group of Catholic chaplains meeting at the Vatican spent a full day studying how to provide pastoral and spiritual care to people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, brought 40 U.S. Catholic chaplains, who are on active military duty, to the Vatican Jan. 19-21 to discuss what’s going on in the archdiocese, learn more about responding to post-traumatic stress disorder and discuss preparations for using the new Mass translations.
Archbishop Broglio said sessions of the annual archdiocesan priests’ convocation are always scheduled in five different cities around the world; this year, one was held at the Vatican. Unless he is deployed with troops on a military mission, each chaplain is expected to attend one of the sessions, the archbishop said.
The chaplains attending the Vatican meeting went to Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly general audience Jan. 20, and Archbishop Broglio spoke briefly with the pope. The archbishop said he told the pope that Auxiliary Bishop Richard B. Higgins had recently suffered a heart attack, and the pope promised his prayers.
Archbishop Broglio said that even though the entire 2008 convocation was dedicated to post-traumatic stress disorder, it is such “a major problem for men and women in the armed services and for our own chaplains, who are deployed multiple times,” that he decided an entire day should be dedicated to the topic again.
The key speaker at the Rome meeting was Jesuit Father Richard Curry, founder and artistic director of the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped and founder of the Writers’ Program for Wounded Warriors. The program helps veterans write dramatic monologues in order tell their stories and help begin the healing process.
“He is doing tremendous work,” the archbishop said, and has been “immensely successful” in using drama as therapy for members of the military recovering from the trauma of combat.
Archbishop Broglio said his archdiocese is responsible for the pastoral care of about 1.5 million Catholics in the military around the world and in Veterans Affairs hospitals.
With 285 active duty chaplains for the military and about 150 chaplains working in the hospitals, “we are terribly undermanned,” he told Catholic News Service.
“Our people come from another diocese and return to another diocese” once their military service is over, he said, “so they are only ours for a time.”
Anytime one of those dioceses would like to pitch in by lending a priest, the archbishop said he’s ready to talk.