Twentynine Palms -- MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, Calif. - Marines, sailors and members of the Roman Catholic Church joined together to sing hymns, confirm their faith and celebrate a special Palm Sunday weekend alongside the military Auxiliary Bishop for the western half of the United States.
Bishop Neal J. Buckon, Military Archdiocese Vicar for the Western Region, made a pastoral visit to the Combat Center March 19-21, 2016.
Buckon spoke with different leaders of the Combat Center during his visit, including Maj. Gen. Lewis A. Craparotta, Combat Center Commanding General and Capt. Stephen M. Lee, assistant chief of staff, Religious Ministries.
“I figured if there’s any place to spend Palm Sunday, it would be Twentynine Palms,” Buckon said. “I know you’re never going to be short of palms here in the desert.”
According to Catholic faith, Palm Sunday commemorates Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem before he was crucified.
Buckon also met with several church members before their respective confirmation to the Roman Catholic Church and led two Palm Sunday Masses with an average attendance of 150 people at each service.
“I see the faith, the hope and the love,” said Buckon. “It’s a wonderful thing to see and be a part of.”
Following the Palm Sunday Masses, Combat Center senior officers and staff non-commissioned officers met with Buckon for breakfast at the Catholic Chapel.
Col. Andrew Kennedy, assistant chief of staff, G-3, volunteered to escort Buckon throughout the Combat Center during his three-day stay.
“It tied the [community and the Combat Center] together,” Kennedy said. “Having someone visit who sees the picture across the entire area of military [religious] services, really broadens your view.”
There was a general consensus of appreciation for Buckon’s visit from Combat Center patrons in attendance.
“It helps bring us all together,” said Abby Carmero, volunteer. “It was exciting to have the Bishop come all this way to see us on Palm Sunday.”