Providing parishes tips for helping veterans

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Sunday, May 20, 2012

On Memorial Day we honor those who served and died in service to our nation. It is also a time to recognize the contributions of those who are serving today.

In order to care for men and women who have returned home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the archdiocese’s Office for Lay Ecclesial Ministry is looking for pilot parishes to join them in ways to welcome returning veterans and to provide support for their families. The office is also developing a website that will provide resources for parishes looking to reach out to veterans.

Kathleen Leggdas, director of the Office of Ministerial Evaluation, said the idea to develop parish resources for veterans came about when the office was working with the Veterans Administration. They learned then that some veterans need a little help getting back on their feet.

“They were identified as sometimes relatively simple needs,” she said. Sometimes this means providing furniture for a new apartment or phone cards. There are many ways parishes could meet these needs that are not cost prohibitive, Leggdas said.

“It just seemed like something absolutely perfect for the church to respond to,” she said.

Along the way, the office hooked up with Father Joseph Mulcrone of the Office for the Deaf and Father Charles Rubey of the LOSS program at Catholic Charities. Mulcrone has looked into hearing loss among veterans returning from wars because of being close to explosions and loud gunfire. The latter is interested in the high rate of suicide among veterans.

In the end, this initiative is all about sharing resources and helping each other.

“What we don’t want to do is duplicate efforts. We want to make the information available to parishes. We do know there are parishes that don’t know exactly what to do,” she said.

The following are some suggestions for parishes on what they can do to help veterans:

  • Pray for veterans during the general intercessions at Mass.
  • Erect a table up in the church somewhere with photos of men and women from the parish serving in war areas. List the names of military men and women known by parishioners. Ask all parishioners to pray for them.
  • Provide resource materials in the vestibules for veterans, such as those from the Veterans Administration.
  • Identify a veteran (male or female) and collect items to furnish their apartment. Consider using items left after a local flea market or provide the veteran with a voucher to shop at the flea market.
  • Prepare “welcome home” baskets of items needed to set up house. Consider providing toiletries, kitchen, bath and laundry items, bedding and small appliances.
  • Enlist religious education or confirmation classes to send birthday cards or notes to veterans who are isolated and without a support system.
  • Plan a full or half-day retreat and invite all veterans within the deanery or vicariate. This would address spiritual needs as well as socialization and isolation.
  • Plan educational programs at local parishes about the varied needs of those returning home from war.
  • Ritualize the return, deployment or enlistment of a parishioner during a parish liturgy. Invite the person and family to sit in front, be part of offertory, etc.
  • Arrange parish “giving tree” to include the name or needs of a returning veteran and parishioners could purchase items specific to these needs.
  • Collect items for distribution through the Veterans Administration hospital. Contact the VA for their needs. Needed items could include gas cards, phone cards, food gift certificates, stamps, envelopes and stationery.

To share ideas or to learn more, contact Kathleen Leggdas at or Carol Walters at cwalters@archchicago. org.