CT National Guard Senior Chaplain Retires

Connecticut National Guard Public Affairs Office
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Simon

Date: 09.11.2019
Posted: 09.11.2019 10:49
News ID: 339658

Thank you, Chaplain Cavanaugh
Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Simon, JFHQ Public Affairs

CT National Guard, Senior Chaplain, Col. Kevin Cavanaugh said his support and dedication for the Connecticut National Guard will be no less in his retirement than it was during his term of service. Cavanaugh is retiring after nearly thirty years of military service this year but affirmed that his door will always be open to the state’s service members and their families.

Cavanaugh grew up in Hartford near the State Armory and said he remembers throwing rocks into the old Park River as a child. His introduction to military life began when he was a member of the St. Augustus Boy’s Brigade. The former national boys’ organization, Cavanaugh described as being like the Boy Scouts but more demanding.

“It was two hours every Friday. We learned how to camp, learned first aid, how to do military drills. We had khaki uniforms. We learned about comradery. It was a great introduction into the service for me,” he said.

In addition to getting an early taste of the military, Cavanaugh was also drawn to religious service.

“We use the word, discernment,” he said, when describing his calling to the Catholic church. “The more you allow the lord to lead, the simpler choices become.”

Cavanaugh attended St. Thomas Seminary High School in Bloomfield, Connecticut, and then Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, New York before being ordained as a priest in 1986 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford. He said although his desire to join the military was strong, he dedicated himself to his duties as a priest in his first parish, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, in Suffield, Connecticut.

In 1990 when Operation Desert Storm commenced, Cavanaugh said his doorway to entering military service finally fully opened. Early in 1991, he attended the U.S. Army Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Curse (CHBOLC) formerly held in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, Cavanaugh then became a battalion chaplain at Fort Drum in New York. In 1992, he deployed with the division to Mogadishu, Somalia as a task force chaplain.

He said he has many fond military memories, but often things about his time in Mogadishu. On an early Spring day in 1992, Cavanaugh held a religious service on the Indian Ocean shoreline in the Somalian city for his task force’s Soldiers. ”That was the best spot for our service. We did it when the sun was setting. It ended up being beautiful,” he said.

Cavanaugh said most chaplain duties entail behind the scenes work with Soldiers and service members. “Chaplains have two faces: public and private. The private face is the one that we wear the most. That’s what Soldiers need most often. A chaplain should be with the troops as much as possible,” he said.

In 1995, Cavanaugh deployed to Haiti with the 25th Infantry Division, and in 1996 he was stationed at Fort Carson as a community chaplain. In 2000, he returned to Connecticut and took over the chaplain reigns of the 242 Engineer Battalion. At the same time, he joined St. Augustus Church in Glastonbury, Connecticut and eventually became the civilian pastor of two churches in that town. He spent seven years in Glastonbury before moving to St. James church in Manchester, Connecticut where he has been pastor since 2007.

Cavanaugh said serving as both a civilian priest and a military chaplain has helped him become a more well-rounded rector.

“I’ve had the most fun when I was closest to the troops. Some want a shoulder to cry on from chaplains. Sometimes tough advice is the best medicine,” he said with a laugh. “On the other hand, being a military chaplain has made me a stronger civilian pastor and at times has given me a little more credibility in the community.”

“Military chaplains have three priorities,” he said. “Nurture the living; care for the wounded; honor the dead.” He said that he’s worked his hardest as a chaplain to support Soldiers over the years. “I remember a beautiful Christmas Eve mass that we held in a compound next to the U.S. embassy in Mogadishu. That mass made our Soldiers very happy.”

The historical St. James (one of the Bible’s New Testament’s 12 apostles) became a traveler and missionary in the latter part of his life and journeyed through western Asia and southern Europe. As the pastor of St. James Church in Manchester, Cavanaugh said he feels a kinship with St. James due to his own expeditions.

“St. James and his brother St. John were nicknamed the ‘sons of thunder,” said Cavanaugh. “I don’t have that in common with them. They were a rough pair,” he added with a smile. “But the mission of the apostles was similar to the mission of chaplains: bring God to people and people to God,” he said. “I’ve done my best to complete this mission for our Soldiers.”

Chaplain Cavanaugh said he will be the pastor of St. James and Assumption Churches in Manchester well into the foreseeable future. He can be reached at St. James Church at 96 Main St. Manchester Connecticut