In today’s world, the need for authentic Christian witnesses is becoming more and more apparent. As young people search for meaning and fulfillment, the Church calls for missionaries to evangelize and preach the Gospel in every sector of society. This is especially true in the United States Military, where so many families experience tremendous stress and are searching for hope in a broken world. The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS) addresses this need by sending missionaries to military installations all over the nation to witness to Christ and be a light to military young adults. Alumna Caroline McDermott ‘23 is taking on this mission as a lay apostle with the AMS, ready to address the spiritual and emotional needs of military young adults and their families.
While at Christendom, McDermott fell in love with her faith and felt a draw to “help those in stress, those in suffering.” Her senior thesis focused on suffering and its role in the development of the Christian Faith. As a senior, McDermott learned of AMS from alumna Stephanie Nussio ’19, and immediately recognized the importance of the work. Her own brother, fellow alumnus Kevin McDermott ’21, is currently in the Army, and she understood the tremendous sacrifices of military personnel and their need for support in their spiritual and emotional lives.
In a society where the human person is so often disregarded as an object or merely a means to an end, McDermott wants to give young adults a sense of connection and normalcy. AMS connects young Catholic missionaries with military base communities and helps them to be the presence of Christ to those in need. As McDermott says, “It’s about really going in and just listening.”
The Archdiocese of Military Services was founded in 1985 by Pope St. John Paul II and serves as the sole certifier of Roman Catholic chaplains to the United States government. These chaplains serve on loan from their diocese of incardination or religious order/society and are released for a term of military service. Because of the limited number and official capacity of the chaplains, AMS is forming lay missionaries to evangelize and witness in all aspects of life, serving as go-betweens for the chaplains and the military young adults they serve.
In her role with the AMS, McDermott is moving to California with three other missionaries, living adjacent to Travis Air Force Base and working there daily. This includes everything from going to daily Mass and coordinating with the military chaplain to organizing social events and building relationships with military young adults in an authentic way, regardless of their spiritual background.
“Whether you go to a restaurant and do trivia, or spend one-on-one time talking about life, you are there to listen and help how you can,” says McDermott.
Alongside the liberal arts education, McDermott says “Christendom prepared me to talk about my faith because before I didn’t have enough to explain. Now I have stories, now I have experiences. Now I have personal truths that I fully believe and embrace.”
She attributes her work as a missionary to the habit of prayer and how prayer is the foundation for trust in God, no matter the uncertainty or crisis. McDermott also believes that working as a counselor for Christendom’s Best Week Ever high school summer program was integral to her growth.
“The summer program formed me to be empathetic, to be more aware of the world’s suffering,” says McDermott. “It showed me that connection with people is what it means to be authentic and human. For a moment, forget everything else; you’re a human being.”
Ultimately, it is not human action that wins souls for God, but a real encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.
“It’s not my goal, it’s God’s goal,” says McDermott. “I know for certain that He wants me to be the vessel. He wants me to be something for other people to be able to grasp Him better.”
Thanks to the generous efforts of McDermott and others, military young adults and their families will be encountering the joy of Christ amidst their everyday, working lives. Like other alumni serving in ministries throughout the nation, McDermott is shining as a witness to what the encounter with Truth Himself can do in the lives of young people — all it takes are simple moments of outreach and community, fueled by the desire of all Christendom alumni to “restore all things in Christ.”
Contributed by Helen Davis ’25.