[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                        June 26, 2009

La Crosse Diocese bishop 
speaks at prayer luncheon

By Rob Schuette, The Real McCoy Staff

Chaplains may not have their own commands, but they have played important roles throughout the years — including the 100 years Fort McCoy has been in existence — in helping the Army accomplish its missions, said Bishop Jerome Listecki.

Photo: Bishop Jerome Listecki of the La Crosse Diocese speaks to personnel attending a prayer luncheon at Fort McCoy. (Photo by Allan Harding)
Bishop Jerome Listecki of the La Crosse Diocese speaks to personnel attending a prayer luncheon at Fort McCoy. 
(Photo by Allan Harding)

Listecki, the bishop of the La Crosse, Wis., Catholic Diocese, was the guest speaker at a Fort McCoy prayer luncheon June 10. The event honored Fort McCoy celebrating its 100th anniversary and also recognized the 100th anniversary of a very important part of the Unit Ministry Team, the chaplain assistant.

Because of his unique experiences, Listecki can talk about religion both inside — Fort McCoy in particular — and outside the Army as he served as a chaplain in the Army Reserve.

He participated in more than 20 years of annual training as a chaplain at Fort McCoy, beginning in 1983, and also has served as a contracted Catholic priest, beginning in 1994, to provide religious support to the Fort McCoy’s chaplain program.

"Let me congratulate Fort McCoy on its 100th anniversary," Listecki said. "Twenty-six years of my sweat is on this fort someplace. Out in the field; in some of the barracks. My relationship with Fort McCoy started in 1983 when I actually was told by then Baptist Chaplain Dave Kennedy — a wonderful historian — about the wonderful history at Fort McCoy."

The Cuban refugees were here in 1980, and Fort McCoy underwent a transformation from a camp to Fort McCoy, he said. Even though it didn’t match Listecki’s concept of the installation from a city boy’s standpoint, Kennedy sold him on duty at Fort McCoy with its common beauty.

"Beyond the natural beauty was the beauty of the fact Fort McCoy was going to be pulled together with a common purpose," he said. "A purpose of being vigilant in the defense of the country."

Military personnel serve to preserve America’s way of life and its freedoms. He said that in his role of bishop of the La Crosse Diocese he has recruited priests from foreign countries. During his travels, he said existing conditions invariably are worse than they are in the United States.

"Don’t forget how blessed we are to have what we have," he said. "And, when you’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fort McCoy you’re celebrating people who have reached out and made the sacrifice to serve so that it would preserve not only the way of life, but the freedoms we have to enjoy."

Chaplains can provide their services and support, in large part, because of the invaluable assistance they receive from chaplain assistants, he said.

"The chaplain utilizing the talents and the specialty of his assistant is able to serve the men and women of either brigade or division with a clearer and sharper focus than if he didn’t have that assistant," Listecki said.

Although one of the things talked about to improve efficiency is to contract the chaplain’s services, Listecki said he believes that having chaplains serving in the military is far more effective.

Their military rank makes chaplains more acceptable to other military personnel than a civilian pastor or reverend would be, he said. Chaplains are accepted by officers because they are an officer. They’re also claimed by the enlisted personnel.

"If Soldiers can’t go to their immediate superior or commander, who are they going to?" Listecki asked. "They’re going to go to the chaplain."

Listecki said chaplains are a combat or force multiplier because they can get things done that may be very difficult to accomplish otherwise through the chain of command. A former commander of his described them as the cohesive glue that helps hold the unit together.

Several chaplain assistants performing duties at Fort McCoy were recognized during the presentation. Sgt. 1st Class Robert Shepherd and Master Sgt. Steve Ferguson, both chaplain assistants, performed songs during the event.

Shepherd, the senior Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of the Religious Support Office, did an acapella rendition of "Did you Stop to Pray?" Ferguson, a chaplain’s assistant with the 88th Regional Support Command, performed "Even Soldiers Need a Place to Cry," a song written by a family member of a Soldier at the 88th.

Garrison Chaplain (Col.) Steven Colwell said he first met Listecki at a funeral. The bishop has brought a lot of support to the installation’s faith program and given a lot of support to Soldiers during his service.

"A lot of faith has been shared here in (the installation’s) 100 years," Colwell said. "A lot of support has been given to Soldiers and their needs to make sure they get the religious support they need. That’s part of our heritage here at Fort McCoy."

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