Tending the troops

| Susan Klemond for The Catholic Spirit | February 27, 2013 | 0 Comments

West St. Paul pastor to serve as National Guard chaplain

Father Michael Creagan, center, receives applause from his uncle, retired Gen. Robert Reed, left, and his mother, Judy Green, following his official commissioning Feb. 28 as a Minnesota Army National Guard Chaplain. Gen. Reed came to the Twin Cities from his home in South Carolina to conduct the swearing in. Green belongs to St. Michael in Stillwater, a parish where Father Creagan has served. He now is the pastor of St. Joseph in West St. Paul. (Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit)

Father Michael Creagan, center, receives applause from his uncle, retired Gen. Robert Reed, left, and his mother, Judy Green, following his official commissioning Feb. 28 as a Minnesota Army National Guard Chaplain. Gen. Reed came to the Twin Cities from his home in South Carolina to conduct the swearing in. Green belongs to St. Michael in Stillwater, a parish where Father Creagan has served. He now is the pastor of St. Joseph in West St. Paul. (Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit)

Starting this March, when Father Michael Creagan isn’t dressed in his black priest’s clerics as pastor of St. Joseph in West St. Paul, he will be wearing camouflage.

The busy pastor isn’t getting ready for the next hunting season; rather, he’s responding to what he believes is an additional call from the Lord to serve military personnel and their families as a chaplain with the Minnesota Army National Guard.

After Father Creagan is commissioned as a National Guard captain on Feb. 28, he will serve 500 soldiers and their families in the Bloomington-based 1/34th Brigade Special Troops Battalion (part of the “Red Bulls”) while he continues as pastor of  St. Joseph.

He will be one of just two Catholic chaplains ministering to the 11,000 service men and women in Minnesota — the fifth largest Army National Guard in the United States.

Offering support

Father Creagan joins noteworthy chaplains in the state’s history — including Archbishop John Ireland, who served in the Civil War — as he prepares to bring the sacraments to Catholics in the battalion and to assist military personnel of all backgrounds during one weekend a month and two weeks of summer training.

Initially he was concerned about whether he could take on the position while continuing in his duties at the parish of 1,850 families, which he said is his top priority. But reassurance received in prayer, along with his chaplaincy training have given Father Creagan confidence that his service can benefit both institutions.

“My immediate answer was ‘No, I am too busy,’ but after much prayer and reflection I found that was not the answer God was looking for,” said Father Creagan. “After the question was posed, I sensed a deep call from the Lord to serve the men and women in the Minnesota National Guard. They are responding to a great call to assist with the safety of our nation and state, and I am happy to support them in that role.”

Father Creagan will serve as chaplain for eight years initially, at the discretion of Archbishop John Nienstedt.

Though he hasn’t previously served in the military, Father Creagan was born on an Air Force base in Japan, where his father was stationed. A number of his relatives also have served, including his uncle, retired Air Force General Robert Reed, who will administer Father Creagan’s oath of commissioning.

Father Creagan was asked to be chaplain more than a year ago by State Chaplain (Col.) John Morris. The other Catholic priest serving Minnesota’s Army National Guard is currently deployed in Kuwait, and there is a void in the organization stateside for those desiring faith-based services.

Father Creagan will be responsible for ensuring all the battalion members’ religious freedom, said Chaplain Morris, adding that along with providing for Catholic soldiers, he will make arrangements for those of other faiths to receive care.

Other duties include counseling, teaching courses on ethics and advising the commander on the unit’s morale, he said.

The challenges include responding to ­disasters and deployment, which is possible though not likely as the Middle Eastern wars are winding down, Chaplain Morris said.

Good for everyone

Father Creagan said skills he has acquired in his nearly 16 years as a priest will help him as chaplain. “In some ways the [chaplaincy] work reflects much of what is done in a parish with prayer, counseling, religious education and pastoral care,” he said.

At the same time, the abilities and experiences he gains as chaplain, including ministering to veterans, administrative skills and leadership, will benefit the parish, Chaplain Morris said.

“We in this battalion gain a very mature, experienced priest who’ll give really good counseling,” he said. “The Catholic soldiers gain a priest who’s accessible. The military gains a very skilled theologian, which is of tremendous value as we try to sort things out ethically and morally in today’s combat environment.”

Captain Charles Beck, an officer recruiting technician who met Father Creagan during his chaplaincy training and who also will serve as a company commander with the same battalion, said this about the future chaplain: “He’s passionate about ministry. He’s also passionate about service which is kind of unique. He’s an articulate, intel-ligent man, very understanding. . . . He brings a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge to the chaplaincy of Minnesota.”

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