Catholic Life on the Base

A double-dip in the Dakotas took me to Box Elder for a daily Mass at St. Joseph the Worker Parish. This was no ordinary parish community.

St. Joseph the Worker is located at Ellsworth Air Force Base, home of the 28th Bomb Wing and approximately 8,000 active military and civilian personnel, a little less than a quarter of them Catholic. The parish community consists of active duty airmen and airwomen, civilian employees and retired service families who call the area home.

Daily Mass, such as the one I attended, tends to attract more of the retired and civilian personnel, as the active duty parishioners are busy carrying out their duties.The parish is led by Monsignor McManus, who has spent decades as an Air Force chaplain, giving him great insight into the needs of these types of parish communities.

The challenges they face are varied and unique to the military setting, and a strong faith has carried many a service member during trying times, as I learned in most poignant fashion in conversations with the community after Mass.

Because of the rules governing churches on bases, the cross must be able to be covered and statues are built on swivels.

The stained glass is similarly nondenominational.
The Alert light is one you only find on military base chapels.
The South Dakota Air and Space Museum sits just outside the base.

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