Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Parishioners Determined To Help War Veterans

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published September 16, 2010

With a weekly prayer hour and relationship with the Care For The Troops counseling program, a new ministry at St. Peter Chanel Church is making it known the parish is a veteran-friendly community.

The St. Peter Chanel Church Military Ministry is reaching out to military families, returning veterans and plans on adopting military units stationed overseas.

The ministry at the Roswell church aims to care both for the spiritual side of people in the military, along with the day-to-day concerns, like volunteering to watch children if a parent needs a break.

“We have lots of people that would help,” said John Frankle, 70, a co-founder of the ministry and a Vietnam War veteran. His inspiration for the program came from recalling the trials his family went through during the 1970s when he was deployed overseas and his wife cared for their three children on her own. He retired from the military after 21 years as an Air Force colonel.

As a former military wife and a mother of a former Marine, Pam Garrett is also one of the leaders of the effort to build the military ministry.

Garrett said she is concerned the spiritual and moral support for soldiers and families fresh from battlefields are being transferred to parishes that may not be prepared for their special needs.

“The focus has been entirely upon treating the perceived traumas to the mind rather than treating the real traumas to the soul,” said Garrett, 53.

Catholic Charities Atlanta facilitated meetings last fall and earlier this year to build bridges between the Care For The Troops organization and parishes around the archdiocese. Some 60 people attended.

One of this ministry’s features is its connection to Care For The Troops, which was co-founded by Rev. Robert Certain, pastor at St. Peter and St. Paul Episcopal Church, Marietta.

Rev. Certain served in the Vietnam War and was a P.O.W. The organization grew out of his own experience of post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to the Care For The Troops’ website, the organization educates civilians, mental health professionals, community and congregation leaders on understanding military women and men who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially on mental health issues.

Its motto is “to care for those who have borne the battle, and their spouses, children, and families.”

St. Peter Chanel’s ministry appears to be the most established out of this effort. It published “The SPC Bugle,” a newsletter with articles about the theology of the soldier, how to support loved ones grieving a death and a call for volunteers to assist with sending gifts to deployed military and aiding homeless veterans.

Garrett, a parishioner here for five years and a defense industry contractor, said her goal is to build a strong ministry that “understands the crosses our military personnel carry for us.”  She said veterans and soldiers should know how much people in the parish and beyond appreciate their sacrifices.

Frankle brings a vision of a hands-on ministry focused on military families. He said he wants a program that takes care of them when loved ones are deployed, everything from delivering a meal to babysitting. There are parish groups that would be happy to lend a hand, he said.

As the ministry gets underway, organizers hope parishioners attend its events and participate in the weekly holy hour for the military every Saturday when people gather in the parish chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Frankle is working on developing ties with military units overseas. There appear to be few parish families with military ties based on his outreach efforts, he said. Instead, the ministry is searching for units to be adopted and where parishioners can ship needed items, like pajama bottoms for wounded soldiers in military hospitals.

The organization is designing a memorial that will be placed in the church entryway to recognize military service members. It’ll also serve as a gathering place for the military ministry.