Praying, not preaching
At CSUS’s Newman Catholic Community, the focus is on supporting the troops
Father George Wanser has spent most of his life in education. A Jesuit priest with a deep voice and easy sense of humor, Father Wanser divides his energy between teaching high school and ministering to college students. He’s been a high-school instructor in Puerto Rico and New York City, and a campus chaplain at the University of Hawaii, Marymount University and UC Davis. He currently teaches at Jesuit High School in Carmichael and preaches to the Catholic congregation at the Newman Center at CSUS.
SN&R asked Father Wanser what he tells his parishioners about God and this war:
Wanser: I agree with the position of the Holy Father in Rome, in that it’s an unjust war. The United States decided to order a pre-emptive attack on Iraq. Had it been an unjust aggressor against the U.S., the position of the Church might have been different. Not only that, but the armed services won the war. Why are they mired as an occupational force presiding over a civil war?
However, preaching about this war is a delicate and different issue. I take great care not to preach my personal views or political positions. Both my parents are vets of World War II. Dad was in the Army Corps of Engineers at Fort Belvoir, as well as in the Philippines preparing for the invasion of Japan, and mom was a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, serving as a communications officer. My congregation at the Newman Catholic Community has many veterans, many reserve officers and enlisted men and women. One sophomore just returned from Iraq, where she served as a medic. Many of the students we have are getting assistance in paying for their education as reserve members of the Armed Services. In fact, one of our regulars is in the Air Force flying over Iraq as we speak.
The distinction I try to make in preaching is that we fully support the men and women of our armed services. We pray for them and their families. We pray for anyone who has lost a loved one, or anyone who is suffering with physical wounds, going through rehab, or psychological wounds, such as post-traumatic-stress syndrome—that the Lord’s healing power will help them in their time of distress.
In my own preaching, I avoid my personal views. It’s not my place. My congregation comprises the full spectrum of positions on the global war on terror. No matter where they are on the spectrum, we all pray for the safe return of all our members of the armed forces serving overseas.
I’m thankful that the folks back home have not made the same mistake that we did in the Vietnam War. Even if we do not support the war, we must care greatly for our troops. They all deserve our support and prayers.