Chaplains, brother inspire call to serve in military

| Deacon Paul Shovelain | November 6, 2013 | 0 Comments
Deacon Paul Shovelain, right, stands last August with his brothers, Dominic, left, and Brian, who is a pilot in the Air Force.  Photo courtesy of Deacon Paul Shovelain

Deacon Paul Shovelain, right, stands last August with his brothers, Dominic, left, and Brian, who is a pilot in the Air Force. Photo courtesy of Deacon Paul Shovelain

Deacon Paul Shovelain of St. Michael parish in St. Michael is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He is a co-sponsored seminarian for the Archdiocese for the Military Services. A second collection will be taken in parishes on the weekend of Nov. 9 and 10 for the military services archdiocese as the nation prepares to mark Veterans Day Nov. 11.

In the fall of 2006, I started seminary studies for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. My roommate that year was from the Diocese of Wichita, Kan. Eventually, he shared stories with me about Father Emil Kapaun, a priest from his diocese who joined the Army in 1944. Father Kapaun served in Korea, as did three of my great uncles.

Father Kapaun, however, did not make it back alive.

My roommate shared many heroic stories about the priest and gave me a book about him. A Medal of Honor recipient, Father Kapaun served God and man bravely and without hesitation.

I found his commitment to his faith inspiring. He sought to bring Christ to everyone through his warm smile and love. Even after being taken prisoner, he worked to keep up the morale of fellow soldiers by making daily rounds in the camp and tending to the sick and wounded.

Father Kapaun died in that camp, but his story lives on as an example of a Catholic priest who like Christ laid down his life for others. His inspiration has helped me deal with personal struggles. When I fast, for example, I think of the small amounts of food he survived on. When I feel scoffed for what I believe, I think of the great charity he showed when he was persecuted for the faith. Eventually his witness inspired me to consider serving as a military chaplain.

Bringing Christ’s love

Now in the fall of 2013, I have begun my eighth and final seminary year. I look back and see God’s providence in my life. In my own vocational call, I have experienced a deep desire to serve others.

Before seminary, I felt that call particularly from the Catholic Church. During seminary, I have felt within that call a call to serve as a Catholic chaplain in our nation’s military. In reading about Father Kapaun and Father Vincent Capodanno, another Catholic military chaplain who sacrificed his life for those he served, I have been moved by their witness.

In 2009, I attended the funeral of Father Timothy Vakoc, a priest from the archdiocese who served in the Army Chaplain Corps.

Jesus Christ desires to have a relationship with all of the men and women of our armed forces. Through those three chaplains, he was able to reach many men and women in uniform.

Still today, our service men and women endure extreme difficulties and have difficult questions; yet, with the help of a priest, they can come to see that God is with them through it all. I hope to be serving with them someday and bring them the love of Jesus Christ.

Another inspiration for me to consider military chaplaincy is my older brother, Brian. He is a pilot in the Air Force and has served with the Air Force for seven years.

Personally, I would love to be able to celebrate Mass for him on a military base someday. He has served two deployments in the last two years. Brian was serving in Afghanistan when I was ordained a deacon. I still say that the only thing that could have made my ordination day better was if my older brother would have been able to be there for it. However, I understood that he had a duty and service to our country.

Please pray for him and all of our military as we approach Veteran’s Day. They have made tremendous sacrifices and deserve our prayers and support.

Thank you, Brian, and all those who serve in our military, for protecting our nation! God bless you!

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Category: This Catholic Life