By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published June 17, 2004
Almost every parish has received prayer requests for parishioners, their family members and their friends who are currently serving in the military. As a way of honoring the men and women in the armed forces and letting them and their families know that the archdiocese remembers their dedication and sacrifices, Archbishop John F. Donoghue and the congress steering committee created a tribute to them at the 2004 Eucharistic Congress.
Parishes were asked to submit names of those in the military, past, present and future, related to parishioners, who were displayed on a large screen during a tribute before the closing Mass. A book with the names was placed on the altar during the Mass.
Father Joe Corbett, pastor of St. Brigid Church, Alpharetta, introduced the tribute, to which the congregation responded with strong applause.
“We are blessed to have such brave men and women protecting us and defending the cause of freedom across the world, and this is our way of letting each one of them know of our prayers and support. And what a great day to remember each of them—at the Eucharistic Congress, by having the holy Mass offered for their intentions,” Father Corbett said afterward. “We all know parishioners and family members who miss their loved ones serving our country, especially those sent overseas, and we wanted each one of them to know that we are praying all of the time but in a special way at this weekend’s Eucharistic Congress.”
The audience seemed deeply appreciative, he said.
“Once the presentation actually started playing, there was a change of tone in the hall. At first it was almost an air of silence and then one of extreme gratitude with what seemed like endless applause for ten minutes as the names of almost 400 service men and women started appearing on the screens.”
On the screen then appeared “Help us pray for our troops,” with an American flag and a crucifix superimposed on it. The people also sang “America the Beautiful.”
Dot Miller, a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Carrollton, has a son, Sgt. Cliff Barber, in the Army who served last year in northeastern Iraq, and two nephews in the Marines, Ryan and Ben Badua, serving, respectively, in Iraq and California.
“I think it was very good,” she said, holding back tears. “It was so touching…It was nice that somebody took the time and energy to make the tribute as beautiful as it appeared.”
She said her son, now stationed in Germany, believes in the mission to liberate and bring dignity to the people of Iraq, whom he found to be thirsting for education and for basic necessities.
She prays a rosary daily for their safety and for all the members of the military. The congress was another time to prayerfully remember their sacrifices.
Gina Blackwell, secretary at St. Brigid Church, said that over 40 churches submitted names. “It was kind of a labor of love, and everyone who sent in an e-mail or fax said thank you that their loved ones were being recognized.”