Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Here's a guy who could replace Fr. Pfleger

Except that the Army owns him for now.

The Rev. James Betz is a bridge between two embattled organizations: the cash-strapped Diocese of Camden and the war-weary U.S. Army.

Last fall, the Army offered to bring the veteran of both Gulf Wars out of retirement for another stint as a chaplain, this time for three years at the Army's European headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany. Betz accepted, knowing that his own parish, St. Nicholas Church on St. Louis Avenue, faced the prospect of merging with another.

Betz was to preside over his final St. Nicholas service Saturday, fly to Germany overnight and hold a service Sunday afternoon. The diocese has ordered his now former parishioners to combine with those of Church of the Assumption in Galloway Township, worshipping there in English and here in Spanish.

The 62-year-old priest and lieutenant colonel is anxious about St. Nicholas' fate and uncertain what's needed of him in Europe, where he is replacing a young priest headed for deployment. But Betz is "very content" nonetheless, he said during an hour of conversation on one of his last days in the St. Louis Avenue rectory.

LtCol Betz is over 60. He volunteered for this duty; the Army couldn't activate him against his will. What he is doing is called backfill, replacing a guy who is going to the sandbox. According to the article he has spent time there himself.

If he needs a job when he gets back, there may be an opening in the Chicago area.

When I was in the USAF and the New Jersey and Florida Air Guard, I've found that the chaplains are the greatest guys around. One year at the Air Guard Base in Jacksonville, FL the chaplain's office organized the Black History Month celebration. They shamelessly pushed the Gospel of Christ. Some of my fellow guardsmen formed a black gospel choir and the guests from the cililian community were all believers and made no bones about it. The ACLU must have been asleep at the switch.

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