Life in Service: a Prayer for Veterans Day
There are 1.4 million Catholic men and women in the US military today. The need for chaplains in just as great as it was in the 1940s and Jesuits from the New England Province continue to respond. This November is also National Jesuit Vocation Month which is focusing on the theme "Life in Service" which has much in common with our veterans, especially those Jesuits who have served or currently serve in the Armed Forces. Fr. Robert L. Keane, SJ, who recently retired after 23 years as a US Navy chaplain, offers a Veterans Day prayer video for all servicemembers past and present.
More about Fr. Robert Keane, SJ and his call to service and career in the United States Navy:
Robert L. Keane entered the Jesuits 1965 and was ordained a priest on June 4, 1978. He enjoyed various assignments both studying and teaching, but it was while he was working in campus ministry at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass. that he also served as chaplain to the naval ROTC unit on campus. Because of that experience, he entered the United States Navy in 1989. Father Keane explained a few years ago while then still serving in the Navy, “The most grace-filled dimension of these 18 years has been the relationships, professional and personal, that have come my way. The young men and women of our armed forces are truly inspiring. Every day they challenge me to stay young and in fairly good physical shape (for an old guy).”
His assignments have included postings in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Desert Saber and more recently, Director of Training at the Naval Chaplains School in Newport, RI. Fr. Keane’s decorations include two Legion of Merit medals, three Meritorious Service Medals, four Navy Commendation Medals, the Navy Achievement Medal, and numerous unit, service, and campaign awards.
“I am blessed to be able to minister to the military,” he says. “Many of our men and women in the military do not know their Catholic faith very well, so there is an opportunity for evangelizing. The religious affiliation of those in the military reflects American society, with 25% of the population Catholic. Many in the military have never met a Catholic, so there is an opportunity to have a presence and build an understanding of our Catholic faith. I can reach out to and guide young people and help them develop character through their growing years.”
“In 1989 there were 260 priests in the Navy; today there are about 60 of whom 3 are Jesuits. When I was a chaplain at Holy Cross and working with the ROTC unit, the commanding officer suggested I become a Navy Chaplain...Years later, I still agree with his suggestion.”
Fr. Keane retired this year from the U.S. Navy after 23 years of service in the Chaplain Corps and rising to the rank of Captain; he is now enjoying a year of sabbatical and personal renewal at the College of the Holy Cross. To learn more about his Life in Service, read Fr. Keane's full military biography.
A long history of a "Life in Service"
The Society of Jesus has a long history of missioning Jesuits to serve as U.S. military chaplains. In this photo (right) Weston College played host for a homecoming ceremony to welcome some fifty Jesuit Chaplains recently returned to New England from World War II service on August 21, 1946. (A special thank you to Alice Howe, Curator of Collections, New England Jesuit Archives at the College of the Holy Cross for providing the photos and images from the collection of the Archives of the Society of Jesus of New England.)