When Father Michael Creagan celebrates Mass at his Minnesota parish on certain days, the military boots visible beneath his chasuble reveal he’s headed for a drill weekend as an Army National Guard chaplain.
They’re also evidence of his call to bring the sacraments and pastoral support to not only his large suburban Minnesota parish but to military men and women in the U.S. and abroad.
Last spring, the 49-year-old diocesan priest left his cassock and full schedule at St. Joseph parish in West St. Paul, Minnesota, and donned military fatigues for deployment in Afghanistan. There as a chaplain, he served at remote mountainous bases, bringing the Eucharist to soldiers at Mass, in Communion and in adoration.
The experience of Father Creagan, National Guard chaplain for the 347 RSG in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, reveals the desire of servicemen and women for the Eucharist. It also emphasizes the need for more Catholic priests to serve as military chaplains.
When a chaplain friend first suggested the cheerful, shaved-headed priest consider becoming an Army National Guard chaplain in 2012, Father Creagan told his friend he was too busy. He didn’t think he could take on military service while pastoring more than 1,900 families and overseeing a Catholic school.
But as part of the discernment process, he brought up the idea of becoming a chaplain with his spiritual director and then his archbishop, who both offered encouragement to go forward.
The military wasn’t entirely unfamiliar to Father Creagan. Though he grew up less than 20 miles from St. Paul in Hudson, Wisconsin, Father Creagan was born on an Air Force base in Japan, where his father was serving at the time. Some of his other relatives also belonged to the military.
In 2015 Father Creagan was deployed to Kosovo and tasked with assisting the U.S. soldiers during a NATO mission maintained by partner nations. He offered direct religious support for Catholic servicemen and women and assisted non-Catholics in practicing their faith.
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