News: VTANG welcomes new chaplain
Story by Airman 1st Class Dana Alyce-Schwarz
BURLINGTON, Vt. - Early in his life Maj. Michael Medas, a Father in the Roman Catholic Church, knew that he wanted to devote himself to helping others. Initially he was only planning to use his seminary studies to provide a foundation to his service to other people no matter what career path he chose. While there he was struck by the realization that the seminary and the priest hood was the perfect fit for his life.
“The way I describe it is like a favorite sweater,” Medas said. “It was the right fit, not just right but also comfortable.”
Medas continued his education at Saint John’s Seminary in Brighton Massachusetts, his home state, and in 1986 began work in the Air Force Chaplain Candidate program. The program functions much like an ROTC scholarship; this allowed him to continue his education while serving military installations and their members. He was officially ordained in 1988 and became an active member of the Air Force Chaplain Corps. He also continued his studies, attending Gallaudet University where he earned a Master’s Degree in social work with a focus on helping the deaf and hard of hearing.
As a military chaplain Medas provides religious services to all Air Force personnel. He has worked with faiths including Catholicism, Judaism and non-faith beliefs such as Atheism. The primary goal of an Air Force Chaplain is to support all members of the Air Force not only in their spiritual or religious needs but also in their personal lives.
“My experience as a chaplain is that if you respect another person’s perspective you will be treated the same. In over a decade of service in the Air Force I have never had anyone not respect my perspective in return.”
Medas first came to the Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG) as a visitor in late 2012. During the visit he was impressed by the community and the people he met. When a position opened he was excited to take on the role as the base chaplain.
Tech. Sgt. Daniel Gillis serves as one of the chaplain assistants in the VTANG and is working towards becoming a chaplain himself. He is excited to be working with Medas.
“He’s very forward thinking,” Gillis said. “He’s been very clear as a leader and a chaplain, he listens to everyone’s input and uses that feedback when he makes decisions. The communication in our office has been fantastic and we’re all very eager to see what we’ll accomplish as a team.”
Joining the VTANG has been a reaffirmation for Medas. He spoke on how welcoming the base members have been. There is a very strong feeling here of how much people want to serve their country and their community.
“There has never been a moment where the community was lacking,” Medas said. “Every question I’ve asked, any help I’ve needed, people have gone the extra mile. To have that happen so consistently across the base, it really highlights the strength of the VTANG.”
One of the few challenges Medas has faced in his career is simply the issue of time. By nature, he admits, chaplain work is conducted on an individual basis and finding time to meet and connect with all members of a base can be difficult.
“One of my goals,” Medas said, “is for people to hear that their wing chaplain acknowledges there are many different ways to approach spirituality and religion, and for them to be comfortable coming to our office for any of their needs.”
To help make that possible, Medas and the VTANG chaplain office have set up a new schedule, what they call the visitation schedule, allowing time for the chaplains and their assistants to visit all the offices on base simply to connect with members unofficially. He hopes that this will remind members that the chaplains are not present only for spiritual needs but for personal guidance as well.
When Medas speaks of other faith groups, and of people in general, it is very obvious that they and their beliefs are valuable to him. He appreciates that part of his role in the Air Force is to help with spiritual resilience as a whole, and his goal for the VTANG is ensure people are aware of the role of the chaplain office and to spread the message that their door is always open.
“In 26 years as a priest,” Medas said, “what I’m always humbled by is that life is always more complex than we know. That sense of having respect and patience for one another, because you never know what someone is carrying with them, a joy or a sorrow. That’s the gift that priesthood has given me, that people are able to share their lives with me.”