Serving Those That Serve

We pulled up to the barbwire gate. Four uniformed and armed guards stopped our car as they reviewed our IDs and required those without proper credentials to turn over their passport to the sign-in office.

Now, if I were talking about entering a prison, you would think, “Oh, of course. That’s normal. We don’t want just anyone going in and out of jail.” But when I tell you this is what teens and families have to do several times a day coming and going from their home, you may start to look at me like I’m crazy.

Since 2005, Life Teen has intentionally reached out to military teens and families. Military families are part of the largest Catholic diocese in the world.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA was started in 1985 when St. John Paul II realized the need to reach American Catholics and their families stationed around the globe. The AMS serves more than 220 installations in 29 countries, patients in 153 V.A. Medical Centers, and federal employees serving outside the boundaries of the USA in 134 countries. Numerically, the AMS ministers to more than 1.8 million men, women, and children.

In October 2013, the AMS and Life Teen entered into a formal partnership to purposefully lead middle and high school military teens closer to Christ. Life Teen and AMS are working closely together to reach teens and their families. We provide a 6th-8th grade Edge curriculum, military youth gatherings at Inspiration Tours, a family camp, a teen military leadership conference overseas, and In the Trenches, a handbook for military youth ministry.

Military teens are not just in military chapels on installations. They are sitting in the pews of your church. Are you aware of any parents or family members currently deployed through the reserves or active duty? One way to find out is during a holiday weekend, such as Memorial Day. Take time during Mass to have teens and their families with deployed family members stand up and pray over them. During Life Night, invite teens to come forward if they have a family member serving in the military. Pray over them and take note to touch base with them about the family member who is connected to the military.

Realize you have more than you think. Military teens, especially those coming from living overseas, have a hard time relating to teens who have grown up in the same town. Start a military specific prayer group or bible study or create a program where a local teen introduces a new military teen to others in youth ministry and the parish community.

Ministering to the teens of the families who voluntarily serve our nation in the armed services is a unique opportunity to serve those who serve. Join us in the trenches to lead military teens closer to Christ in your parish pews and where ever the military sends them.

Image via FlickrCC 2.0, Logo added 

About the Author

Marlo Dowdy

After receiving first communion at a Life Teen parish, Marlo hasn't looked back as she enjoys sharing the movement of Life Teen with all whom she encounters. Marlo focuses on serving parishes outside the United States and US Military Installations. She served as a missionary for 5 1/2 years overseas in Heidelberg, Germany ministering to American military youth and families stationed in Europe. As a military brat Marlo enjoys experiencing new things and different cultures. "Life Teen transformed me as an elementary student. Where ever my Dad was stationed with the US Army, we couldn't wait to share Life Teen with other military families."

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