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Deacon brings Catholic services to Guardsmen

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Deacon Iver Johnson of the Saints Cyril and Methodius Church in East Helena officiated a Catholic worship service during the 120th Airlift Wing’s Jan. 7 drill in the maintenance classroom.

Although this was only Johnson’s second month bringing Catholic services to the wing in Reverend Oliver Doyle’s absence, he is no stranger to the base.

“I was in the Guard from 1976 to 2000 and retired in December of 2000,” said Johnson.

Johnson said he was approached by Vice Chief of Joint Staff for the Montana Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Pete Hronek in September about the possibility of reconnecting with the guard through his ministry, and Johnson thought that it would be a perfect fit.

“Being able to reconnect is an important part of ministry, as well as being a servant of the lord,” said Johnson.

“The Catholics are the second largest religious population on base so we have a deep desire to meet their needs,” said Lt. Col. Art McCaffrey, 120th AW chaplain.

McCaffrey said that coordination has to occur between the Roman Catholic clergy, their bishop and the guard in order to get them to provide services.

Johnson’s ministry received the approval and support of the Bishop of Helena Most Reverend George Leo Thomas, Ph.D., and Vicar for Canonical Services Reverend John W. Robertson.

Johnson said it is unknown how frequently he will be coming to Great Falls to provide Catholic worship services to the Airmen of the Montana Air National Guard, as his number one commitment is to his local parish.

“We don’t want to hurt the parishes, but at the same time we want to serve our Airmen, so it is the best solution we’ve found,” said McCaffrey.

Johnson was ordained as a Catholic deacon five years ago and has served in that role in the Diocese of Helena.

“I am fully confident that Deacon Johnson will do a wonderful job,” said McCaffrey.

McCaffrey said that he is deeply grateful that Johnson has chosen to come all the way up to Great Falls to provide services to the Airmen of the 120th AW.

“We had a long conversation and his love of God equals mine and his love for the Airmen also equals mine, so I’m very grateful,” said McCaffrey.

Johnson said there are two consistencies he immediately noticed when returning to the base: it’s windy and the location of services changes frequently.

“We were in the EOD supply room and now we’re in the maintenance classroom,” said Johnson. “Six months from now we could be over in headquarters. There are a couple things that have not changed over 16 years.”

Both Catholic and Protestant services are held on Sunday of each drill weekend at 7:30 a.m.
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