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Franciscans back to work in Walter Reed after new contract

Walter Reed National Medical Center

Public Domian

J-P Mauro - published on 06/17/23

Archbishop Broglio noted that the new contract came largely in thanks to the efforts of Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Solhjem, the Army Chief of Chaplains.

Franciscan priests will once again minister to veterans at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, after regaining a contract with the hospital. The new contract will last for 5 years and will extend the relationship between the two groups that has lasted more than two decades.

Aleteia previously reported on Walter Reed’s April decision to cancel their contract with the Franciscans, choosing instead to work with a secular firm that would send chaplains to the hospital. The Archdiocese of the Military, however, pushed back on the decision, noting that a private secular firm could not provide Catholic priests and could therefore not provide Catholic services and sacraments.

According to The Archdiocese for the Military Services, it is “the only Catholic authority for endorsing and granting faculties to Catholic priests and chaplains to serve in the U.S. Military.” Furthermore, it has ecclesial jurisdiction over Walter Reed and other military medical centers.

It is estimated that the Archdiocese for the Military Services ministers to 1.8 million Catholics worldwide, at more than 220 military installations and 29 countries.

The cancellation came just before Holy Week, which raised concerns over the rights of patients to practice their faith during Easter. The Franciscans, however, were allowed to continue to minister to patients throughout the holiday, but have been very limited in their availability ever since.

Now, The Washington Times reports that The Defense Health Agency reopened bidding for the contract in May, awarding the contract to the Franciscans by June 8. Within a week of the new contract’s establishment, the Franciscan friars were reportedly back in Walter Reed ministering to sick and wounded veterans.

Archbishop of Military Services, Timothy P. Broglio, hailed the new contract, stating:

“It is a source of great joy that the Franciscans have returned to the medical center and care for patients and staff there.”

Archbishop Broglio noted that the new contract came largely in thanks to the efforts of Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Solhjem, the Army Chief of Chaplains, who intervened on behalf of the Franciscans. He said that Gen. Solhjem took quick action “to assure the presence of additional Catholic priests from the Army Reserves,” as soon as he found out that the contract had been canceled.

“He also made certain that the needs of Catholics were addressed in the renegotiation of the contract,” Archbishop Broglio said.

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