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Walter Reed Bethesda Observe Ash Wednesday


By Bernard S. Little

WRNMMC Public Affairs

The Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, Timothy P. Broglio began Lent at Walter Reed Bethesda with the placing ashes on the foreheads of worshippers who attended the medical center’s annual Ash Wednesday Mass on March 1 in Memorial Auditorium.

For many who’ve been associated with Walter Reed Bethesda over the years, attending the medical center’s Ash Wednesday Mass has become a tradition, said Army Col. Michael S. Heimall, director of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He added Lent is devoted to fasting, prayer and rededication to one’s faith. “I hope all in the Walter Reed Bethesda community the best during this period of rededication to our commitments and faiths,” he continued.
Pope John Paul II created the position of Archbishop for the Military Service in 1985, and on Nov. 19, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Broglio to the assignment, making him the fourth Archbishop for Military Services. Broglio was formally installed in the position on Jan. 25, 2008 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
The Archdiocese for the Military Services, which the archbishop leads, provides the Catholic Church’s pastoral ministries and spiritual services to those in the U.S. Armed Forces. This includes individuals at more than 220 installations in 29 countries, patients in 153 Veterans Affairs medical centers, and federal employees serving outside the boundaries of the United States in 134 countries. Numerically, the AMS is responsible for more than 1.8 million men, women and children.
In his Ash Wednesday homily at Walter Reed Bethesda, Broglio said to the medical staff and its beneficiaries, “The wounded and the ill do indeed minister to those who retain [their health]. They teach us the value of good health [and] elicit [our] compassion, [calling upon us] to serve the needs of a sister or brother.”
The archbishop then quoted Pope Francis from his Lenten message, reiterating, “Other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons [for good deeds and] change.”
Broglio called Lent “a favorable season for opening the doors to all of those in need. Each life we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love.”
Lent is a season for change and renewal, symbolized by the ashes from palms burned from last year’s Palm Sunday and placed as a cross on the foreheads of those who attend Ash Wednesday services, the archbishop explained.
“Lent is the time the Lord calls us to enter more deeply into a relationship with him,” he continued. “Now is the time to accept that invitation.”
He added the ashes also serve as a reminder that “this earthly life…will past away. We will return to the earth from which we were fashioned.
“Those same ashes, however, also signifies our ability to change, to grow, be converted and to draw ever nearer to the Lord who empowers us,” Broglio said. He added this growth should not be limited to the Lenten season.
“Today, we are charged to be good ambassadors…to make known [to others] the one who has sent us, and make his characteristics known and appreciated,” Broglio said.
Lent is prayer, pertinence, sacraments and increased charity, he added. “It is the path that will prepare us well for the celebration of the Easter victory over sin and death.”
In addition to special services, WRNMMC’s Department of Pastoral Care offers daily mass and services for religions of various faiths, as well as patient and family visitation.  For more information, call 301-295-1510