Fr. Jason Hesseling reports on his experience as Army chaplain in Afghanistan Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kat Wagner, Catholic Herald staff   
Thursday, Jun. 25, 2009 -- 12:00 AM
  Fr. Jason Hesseling
  Fr. Jason Hesseling, a Madison diocesan priest serving as a United States Army Chaplain, rides on Centurion Air in Afghanistan.

MADISON — The day Fr. Jason Hesseling, United States Army Chaplain, left Alaska for his posting in Afghanistan, he prayed the Liturgy of the Hours and read the passage: “When O Lord, will I come to the end of my pilgrimage and enter the presence of God!”

“Kind of funny to read that on that day,” he wrote in his newsletter to friends back home. “Not sure I would term my time in Alaska as a pilgrimage, and I certainly wouldn’t say that Afghanistan is the presence of God. But it did kind of put a good spin on the flight and the next 12 months of my life.”

Life altering experience

He reflected, “This really will be a pilgrimage, not only to physical places, but to mental and spiritual realities that are easily ignored or forgotten,” he wrote. “The next 12 months I expect to be challenged, and pushed. I hope to come to grips with my comfortable and sheltered life, my blessed fortune, and my faith/trust in God which I all too often take for granted.

“This is the reality, and in some sense the goal, of every pilgrimage. It is, and should be, a life altering experience filled with blessings and hardships, ecstatic and humbling moments, and even fear and danger.  I am hoping, and I am sure to receive, all this and more.”

Previous experience as priest

Father Hesseling, who was ordained in 2000 as a priest in the Diocese of Madison, was released to the military as a United States Army Chaplain in 2008.

He had previously served in the diocese as parochial vicar St. Dennis Parish in Madison and at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Portage, linked with St. Mary Help of Christians Parish, Briggsville, St. Mary of the Holy Rosary Parish, Pardeeville, and St. Andrew Parish, Buffalo. He served as pastor at St. Barnabas Parish, Mazomanie, linked with St. John the Baptist Parish, Mill Creek.

Here’s how to help
To send something, or write to a soldier directly, Fr. Jason Hesseling’s address is: CH Jason Hesseling; HHC 725 BSB; 4/25th BCT, FOB         SHARANA; APO, AE 09311.

A few of the “good things that always bring us smiles” are whole bean coffee, trail mix, bite-sized candy and snack food, toys or beanie babies for the Afghan children, school supplies for the local school, DVDs and CDs or handheld games, or toiletries for the remote Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). Small devotional books and medals, scapulars, or rosaries are always welcome, too.
Serving in Afghanistan

After training in Alaska, he was sent to serve at Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) in Afghanistan. In his semimonthly newsletters (“Centurion Faith!”, named after the centurion in Matthew who seeks healing from Jesus for his paralyzed servant), Father Hesseling writes about the rigors of the travels from base to base, of the “spartan” celebration of Easter and “doing without,” and the small joys from care packages sent from stateside, shared with soldiers.

“Something I’ve been thinking about, and will go into the next newsletter, are thoughts on Memorial Day,” Hesseling wrote in a recent e-mail to the Catholic Herald. “There are any number of reasons why young men and women become soldiers: money, education, adventure, etc.

“But the reason soldiers stay soldiers is almost always the same, especially if they have a deployment or two under their belt: love of their brothers and sisters in arms, devotion to their loved ones and their country, and commitment to service and sacrifice,” he wrote.

“I’m blessed and honored to serve alongside some great men and women who gladly bear 12 to 14 hour days, lousy coffee, sandstorms, tiny quarters, and a constant threat from bullets, bombs, and mortars all for the sake of protecting the innocent both here and back home. People can never forget or take for granted the sacrifices that duty places on a soldier’s shoulders, nor the dedication and devotion that makes carrying that burden possible.”

Thanks for support and prayers

Father Hesseling thanks those who send items, letters, and care packages, and for the support and prayers they receive. It’s not about “milking my friends/family or parishes for packages (okay, it’s a little bit about that),” he admits, “but it’s more to recognize and thank those that have thought about soldiers living in a rather unpleasant part of the world and taken action to make their lives a little more comfortable.

“Almost everything that is sent to us gets pushed forward to FOBs that can be pretty austere, or is shared on our Table of Grace outside our office. If for nothing else it gives people who are a little timid a reason to stop by my office for a little chat or a good word,” he wrote. “So thanks again for all the support and prayers that are sent our way. ”


Edited (1) time to correct Fr. Hesseling's service in the Diocese of Madison.

Last Updated on Wednesday, Sep. 16, 2009 -- 8:51 PM
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