Onward Priestly Soldier
In just six years since his ordination for the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., Father Brian Kane has encountered a wider range of pastoral settings than many priests do in a lifetime.
He has served in a parish, taught
high-school religion and ministered to college students. And the 32-year-old
now resides at Camp al-Asad,
In addition to celebrating several Masses a day and hearing confessions regularly, Father Kane can be found doing pushups at 7 a.m., sitting with a soldier suffering from heat exhaustion or joking around in the mess hall.
As long as it doesn’t involve a weapon or deadly force, anything his unit does, Father Kane does.
“It’s a good opportunity for me to visit with soldiers and make myself more present, sweating and training just like them,” Father Kane told the Register. “That can go a long way.”
As a result, the young priest says soldiers have gradually become more comfortable stopping by his room to talk or to ask a question.
“A week does not go by that some young Marine or soldier comes into my office and says he wants to become Catholic or wants to go to confession and hasn’t been in years,” he says. Three RCIA classes formed on base to prepare soldiers to receive the sacraments this Easter.
Father Kane’s willingness to share
intimately in the everyday experiences of those in his care has been a hallmark
of his priesthood. At St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center on the
According to Father Robert Matya, pastor at the
“He’s good at being able to read people and meet them where they are,” Father Matya says. “With college students, that’s not always easy.”
“Our group of friends can take him places without feeling awkward,” she adds. Whether at the pulpit, in the confessional or at a restaurant, “he presents life as real as it can get.”
Sgt. Nathan Kane (no relation)
agrees. “I always remember that, if you wanted to have a serious conversation
and get advice for a problem, he was right there,” says the
Father Kane’s success with college
students may result from the nurturing his own vocation received at the
He began to attend daily Mass there and “started to have a longing in my heart to do the things priests do,” he says. “I would sit after Mass and catch myself thinking, ‘If I were a priest, I think I’d say this in a homily.’ I found myself not just coming for the social side, but becoming more and more in love with the Mass and with the Eucharist, with Jesus.”
Father Kane says his decision in 1994 to enter the seminary was a culmination of “lots of little things” beginning with a love for teaching and a strong Catholic home life.
As he began priestly life, Father
Kane quickly gained a reputation for his availability and willingness to help.
“When he sees a great need, he tries to respond,” Father Matya says.
Confronted with the possibility of becoming an Army chaplain, however, Father Kane initially hesitated.
“Never in a million years did I picture myself in the military,” Father Kane says. “I thought, ‘It doesn’t sound like I’m cut out for that.’ I’m not exactly ‘Mr. Atlas.’”
Nevertheless, as he began to understand the need, he felt the Holy Spirit calling him to check it out
Eight months into his
Christ in the Desert
As a priest-chaplain, Father Kane’s primary job is to administer the sacraments, but he is responsible for the spiritual health of all men and women on base. In the absence of a non-Catholic chaplain, he conducts non-denominational services. He even holds the keys to the local mosque.
Additionally, Father Kane educates the soldiers on local religious customs and advises the commander on the soldiers’ spiritual fitness and the morality of particular military actions.
He also currently supervises the construction of a large chapel, scheduled to open this month. An adjoining 24-hour Blessed Sacrament chapel is in the works, he says. For now, service members sign up for adoration in half hour slots on First Fridays.
Before leaving for
“This could sound selfish at first,” he says, “but the priest has to pray and has to be, as Fulton Sheen says, a ‘Eucharistic priest.’ By doing this each day, we are nourished to serve whoever may walk into the door.”
Father Kane says the Mass sustains him through daily difficulties — and that he was especially aware of this during Lent.
“We get to encounter Jesus as he
encountered so many who were searching years ago,” he says. “One of the
blessings of being a priest in
Kimberly Jansen writes