Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Priests Complete First Year As Chaplains

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published May 21, 2009

Father Fred Wendel marks one year as an Army chaplain in July.

From ministering to a Catholic community to running suicide prevention training, Father Wendel said his service as a military chaplain is better than he expected.

“It’s great. I love it,” he said in a telephone interview as he traveled between military installations in Virginia.

Father Wendel and Father Kevin Peek, the former chaplain at Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell, joined the Army last summer to serve as chaplains.

Father Peek could not be reached by press time, but his father, Joe, said his son is doing well and tending to the needs of some 6,000 troops in Iraq.

“He is as enthusiastic as he can be in a war zone,” said Joe Peek.

Father Wendel, the former pastor at Prince of Peace Church, Flowery Branch, said his year of service in Virginia has had its ups and downs, from ministering to people in religious settings to dealing with suicide by members of the military.

He wears two hats: serving a Catholic community where he and a civilian priest are responsible for six Masses a weekend and serving as the troop command chaplain at Fort Belvoir, Va., where he is at the soldiers’ disposal. In June, he is to return to the Atlanta area and serve as the garrison chaplain at Fort McPherson. It is his third time in the military since the Vietnam War.

“What has been really pleasing for me is to see the need for the chaplaincy in the Army,” he said. Commanders turn to Father Wendel and his colleagues to support the troops’ spiritual needs and bolster morale, he said.

Soldiers are great, committed to their mission, following through on whatever is asked of them, he said.

“It is the soldier side of things I like,” he said.

Looking back over the year, Father Wendel said one of his unique experiences was holding a nondenominational Easter service on Good Friday because it fit into the schedule of the military personnel.

“It was very strange to for me to celebrate Easter on Good Friday,” he said.

As he approaches his 60th birthday, Father Wendel joked that he wanted people in Atlanta to know that he has “successfully passed” all his Army physical training tests.