Veterans retreat focused on God’s light in the darkness

In Jesuit Father James Conroy, the White House Jesuit Retreat in south St. Louis County has perhaps the perfect leader for its annual veterans retreat — Friday, June 30, to Sunday, July 2, just before Independence Day.

Being a Jesuit priest at a Jesuit retreat center certainly qualifies in the spiritual aspect, but Father Conroy also fulfills the temporal nature of the retreat, connecting him quickly with men and women who have served their country.

He's a veteran himself, of the Vietnam War.

White House retreat to help veterans focus on prayer and faith

Father Joe Laramie, SJ, right, talked with Vietnam veterans Mark Lynch, left, Kenneth Duncan and Ray Mercer at a stop of the American Veterans Traveling Tribute replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Festus. Father Laramie was discussing a retreat for veterans that will be held July 1-3 at White House retreat center.

With the Vietnam Traveling Wall as a backdrop at West Park in Festus, Jesuit Father Joe Laramie quietly visited with folks paying respects to friends, relatives or just plain strangers among soldiers who died in the war.

Originally, he had planned to be there to share information about an upcoming retreat, exclusively for veterans, just before Independence Day, July 1-3 at the White House Jesuit Retreat.

But as often happens with priests, he spent time ministering — "light ministry," he called it — to men and women who had come to see the wall.

St. Peter School celebration honors military veterans

Lisa Johnston | | twitter: @aeternusphoto

Victor Frome retired from his military service in 1983 as a major in the U.S. Army. He served around the world but recalls his greatest duty serving in Vietnam along the Cambodian border and the men in his charge. Frome is a parishioner at St. Peter in Kirkwood and walked through a line of honor Nov. 11 as he was congratulated by the school children at St. Peter School.

There's a story of St. Martin of Tours, patron of soldiers, in which he tore off half of his cloak to give to a beggar. Later, he had a dream where he met Jesus in heaven, who was wearing part of Martin's torn cloak. "How did you get that?" St. Martin asked.

"You gave it to me when I was cold," Jesus told him.

Msgr. Jack Costello shared that story at an all-school Veterans Day Mass Nov. 11 at St. Peter in Kirkwood. The school also honored more than 60 veterans from the community with a special progam and reception after Mass.

Editorial | Recognize our veterans

Whatever you are doing on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, remember to turn your thoughts to all those who have served our country in times of war. Among those veterans are military chaplains.

Coats given to vets helped by St. Patrick Center

Clients of St. Patrick Center who have served in the military were given coats, gloves and hats at the center. William Adams served the Army in Germany. He left the center’s building to walk and find some food to eat, happy with his new warm coat on the first cold day of the season.

U.S. Army veteran William Adams was homeless for 15 years before a program at St. Patrick Center helped him get an apartment. He maintains his connection with St. Patrick Center, and on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, he received a new, insulated winter coat in a distribution to clients who are veterans.

Adams, who served in the Army from 1979-83, said he feels blessed to be a recipient of help from St. Patrick Center. "When you need a helping hand, they are there for you," he said.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Assisting veterans

Thank you for your recent coverage in the May 20-26 issue of the St. Louis Review regarding the challenges faced by women veterans. In fact, two of the women highlighted, Elisha Perez and Elenore Baker, have benefited from U.S. VETS (United States Veterans Initiative). We are a national organization ( that has provided counseling services and transitional housing to veterans for 20 years. Across 12 sites nationwide, U.S. VETS houses about 3,300 veterans on any given day.

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