In God We Trust Article

Archdiocese of Denver to Offer Special Livestream Mass for Veterans Day on Nov. 11

The “In God We Trust” online event aims to honor veterans and call fallen-away Catholics back to faith

Bishop Jorge Rodríguez blesses the Colorado Freedom Memorial during a Mass Sept. 28, 2019, in Aurora, Colorado.
Bishop Jorge Rodríguez blesses the Colorado Freedom Memorial during a Mass Sept. 28, 2019, in Aurora, Colorado. (photo: Daniel Petty / Denver Catholic)

DENVER—“In war there are no unwounded soldiers,” wrote Argentinian author José Narosky. Soldiers who manage to return home are changed by the horrors of war they experienced and while they may not have lost their lives, many lose their faith.

To remedy that, this Veterans Day, Nov. 11, deacons and priests of the Denver and Colorado Springs dioceses, the founder of the Colorado Freedom Memorial, Knights of Columbus, the Air Force Academy Catholic Cadet Choir and two Catholic counseling centers are partnering to offer a livestream program for veterans and their families called In God We Trust at 6:15 p.m. MT at www.archden.org. The program will honor and offer spiritual outreach to veterans.

The In God We Trust livestream event includes Mass celebrated by Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila, music, inspiring testimony, counseling resource information and an invitation to next year’s in-person, outdoor event.

“The In God We Trust program is for veterans — all veterans and their families — but we especially want to reach out to those who feel alienated from the Church because of things they did in war,” said Deacon Joe Donohoe, director of deacons for the Denver Archdiocese and primary initiator of the program. “We want them to know the Church hasn’t rejected them. She needs them and wants them.”

“Those veterans who came home still fight the demons of war,” said Rick Crandall, founder of the Colorado Freedom Memorial and KEZW-AM morning show host. “They come back bearing the burden of their battles. War is ugly, violent and desperate and a lot of things go on that go against what we learned in the golden book. There’s this fear that God will be angry with what we had to do for survival. Our task with this event is to remind everyone who served in uniform that God is still here, God never left and is waiting. It’s a call to trust God.”

The first In God We Trust program was held outdoors last year at the Colorado Freedom Memorial in Aurora, Colorado. The memorial lists the names of 6,215 Coloradans killed or missing in action. The site is a revered place for veterans’ families to connect with their deceased loved ones as thousands of those memorialized there don’t have a local gravesite, either because their remains were not recovered or were buried in foreign lands. The memorial was blessed as part of last year’s Mass and program, which included opportunities for confession and for counseling, as well as lunch.

“We were originally planning for this year’s event to again be held at the Colorado Freedom Memorial, but due to COVID-19 we couldn’t do that,” said Deacon Donohoe, who is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel. “This year’s event is to let veterans know we haven’t forgotten about them — we want them to join us livestream this year, and we are also inviting them to next year’s outdoor event at the memorial.”

Crandall, who started his radio career in the Air Force and is a convert to Catholicism, said the positive reaction of veterans to last year’s In God We Trust program affirmed that organizers were on the right track and should make the program an annual event. He asserted that God is bringing good out of the disappointing circumstances that forced this year’s event to be livestreamed in that it may be a less threatening way for veterans who have fallen away from their faith to take a step toward returning.

“For those veterans reluctant to come back to Church, here’s an easy way for you to see what we’re about — watch the In God We Trust livestream program on Veterans Day,” said Crandall. “You don’t have to go anywhere. In the comfort of your personal space you can listen for God to call you back. I think it’s perfect.”

Soldiers are known for valor, Deacon Donohoe said, explaining the In God We Trust event aims to let veterans know the Church militant is with them to help them banish the fears and lies of the enemy blocking their return to God and their path to their eternal home.

“Hopefully, it sparks a flame in their hearts, and they will reach out to a priest or deacon and get reconnected with the Church,” he said. “Veterans have the boldness of courage to fight the spiritual battle to get to the eternal kingdom.”

Long a strong advocate for veterans on his radio show and in his personal life, Crandall said there are many programs doing excellent work to help veterans with health care issues or who are experiencing homelessness, so when Deacon Donohoe called him last year to ask what deacons could do for veterans, the two of them saw a need to aid veterans with lapsed faith return to God and the sacraments.

The In God We Trust initiative resonated with Deacon Jim Doyle, who is a committee member. Deacon Doyle is the son of an Army officer who was killed during World War II in Aachen, Germany and is memorialized on the Colorado Freedom Memorial. A veteran himself, Deacon Doyle served as an air evac medic during the Vietnam War. He recently attended the funeral of a longtime friend who had lost his faith as a result of war service.

“He was a special forces guy,” Deacon Doyle said. “So many guys from my era, the Vietnam era, have dropped out and aren’t Catholic anymore. So, this is important to me.”

Another unexpected benefit of livestreaming this year’s In God We Trust event, organizers said, is that people across the nation can participate. Organizers hope the broader exposure will lead other dioceses to consider creating their own programs to help veterans with war-induced loss of faith find their way back to the Church.

“This is such an important message,” Crandall said. “I’m proud to be part of this effort and I’m proud of the Denver Archdiocese for leading the way.

IN GOD WE TRUST (2020) 

  • What: Veterans Day livestream Mass, program
  • When: 6:15 p.m. MT, Nov. 11
  • Where: www.archden.org
  • Information: Call 303-715-3198

SAVE THE DATE (2021)

  • What: 2021 In God We Trust outdoor Mass, program
  • When: 11 a.m. MT, Sept. 18, 2021
  • Where: Colorado Freedom Memorial, 756 Telluride St., Aurora, Colo.
  • Information: 303-715-3198

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