Jesuit Retreat Helps Veterans Reflect on God’s Presence
July 20, 2017 — Over Independence Day weekend, a group of U.S. veterans gathered at
the White House Jesuit Retreat in St. Louis to reflect on God’s presence throughout
their military experience.
The second annual Veterans White House Jesuit Retreat helped participants
focus on their military service and how God was with them and continues to be
with them. The weekend delved in to the trauma created by PTSD and the guilt
and shame that can accompany military experience.
This unique retreat was prompted by
Pope Francis’ call in October 2015 to nourish the ethical and spiritual
dimensions of military personnel and their families. The pope said that we as a
community must teach them prayer as a way of dealing with their new reality.
The retreat was led by Jesuit Father Jim Conroy, co-founder of the Ignatian Volunteer
Corps, rector at Wheeling Jesuit University and a Vietnam veteran. The weekend
consisted of a series of talks by Fr. Conroy, followed by small breakout
sessions and quiet reflection. The veterans had the chance to listen to other veterans’
stories and came together through sharing their experiences.
"I have great empathy for men and women who have
been in the military, in some cases having experienced horrible things,"
said Fr. Conroy, who also led the inaugural veterans retreat last year.
"It's a complicated life.
"Military service can be a time that is pretty
dreadful but it also can be a time that's pretty beautiful. You've got to be
able to find God in places that are real hard but in places that are also real
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