Wanted: A few good chaplains

I got two interesting releases today about the need for military chaplains.

First I got a mass email from Father James Joslyn, a retired Navy captain and chaplain, explaining that there aren’t enough Catholic priests these days to fill the needs of the military services.

So the Archdiocese for Military Services is actively recruiting “contract priests,” civilian priests who can help out for stretches as chaplains.  “The word has to get out to bishops, religious superiors and priests that contracting is a way to serve without committing to a twenty year military career and without having to meet the rigorous age and physical requirements for active duty service,” Joslyn wrote.

Many priests don’t know that the opportunity is even there to serve the military in this way, he wrote. He urges all Catholics to become a contract priest recruiter by referring priests to the archdiocese website or the website for Federal Business Opportunities.

“Together we can meet the needs of our Catholic service men and women and their families,” Joslyn writes.

Not long after, I got a release from the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic sect trumpeting the news that a Chabad rabbi has won a lawsuit and can become a chaplain — despite having a beard.

The release explained: “In keeping with Jewish teachings regarding preserving a man’s facial hair, Stern does not cut or trim his beard. This previously stood him in opposition to official military codes for dress and appearance. Back in 2009, he had received preliminary approval for a reserve commission in the U.S. Army, but he was twice contacted about errors that would delay his swearing-in because the issue of his facial hair was not resolved.”

Rabbi Menachem Stern filed a federal lawsuit in December, contending that the Army violated his Constitutional rights to religious freedom and equal protection under the law. But the Army has settled the case.

After his commission, Stern wants to request active duty. Chabad rabbis and their families travel the world to serve Jews in many capacities, so Stern is ready to head out.

He said: “A soldier, whether they’re Jewish or not, will see someone who is serious and standing by his faith without compromise. They’ll respect that person and come to trust him.”


Batman, the FBI and Torah

The rabbi to the FBI’s behavioral science unit — whatever that means — will speak Tuesday (April 27)  at Young Israel of New Rochelle.

Rabbi Cary Friedman’s 8 p.m. talk is called “Bringing Spirituality to the FBI.”

ltHolyTorahAuthorFriedman, an Orthodox rabbi from Jersey, is a chaplain and motivational speaker “specializing in law enforcement-related issues,” according to a bio.

He’s also a big fan of the top secret agent around. Batman.

According to a profile from the New Jersey Jewish News, Friedman finds universal messages in the stories of the Caped Crusader and incorporates them into his teachings. He’s written a book called “Wisdom from the Batcave: How to Live a Super, Heroic Life.”

imagesOne reviewer on Amazon calls it “possibly the most enjoyable self-help book ever.”

Friedman explains:


When I was growing up, my house was filled with survivors. My mother and her friends would talk about whatever. But there was a certain need to confront a world that’s uncertain and a little scary. They made a conscious, deliberate, decisive effort to make some order of the world…

…as a kid, I latched on to Batman. It’s taken years to work out, but he resonated with me, because he also tried to make sense of a scary world. He saw his parents murdered before his eyes and tried to inject a sense of justice. But he did so without superpowers. He was an ordinary person who offered universal lessons about dealing with adversity.


No word on whether Friedman will talk Batman in New Ro.

Or where Robin fits in.

Army chaplains training to prevent soldier suicide

Army chaplains are on the front lines of preventing suicide in the military.

A solid feature from the United Methodist News Service explains that the Army has tried this year to improve its suicide-prevention efforts. And yet, there have been 88 reported active-duty suicides in the Army since January.

Chaplains receive specialized training and are “gatekeepers for the prevention programs,” said Chaplain Lt. Col. Scott Weichl, behavioral health program manager at the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

“Many, many folks come and talk to us,” Weichl, a United Methodist chaplain, tells the UMNS. “We are not judgmental, and many who have had serious difficulties just need someone to talk to. We try to discern, to triage who needs to see someone with special training and skills.”

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Carleton Birch of the Office of the Chief of Chaplains said that many soldiers, like civilians, are reluctant to seek help. Chaplains are now trained to refer soliders to a host of specialists, he said.

“I’ve had a lot of experience over the years with soldiers with suicidal thoughts and feelings,” Birch says. “Not a single one has said ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ to professional help at the end of our sessions.”