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Fr. Steven Vanden Boogard, O. Praem.

The Sandwich Generation: Fr. Steven Vanden Boogard, O. Praem.

Norbertine Priests Juggle Work, Family, and Health Concerns with the Help of their Brothers in Christ

As seen in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of Abbey Magazine (page 7)

By Gina Sanders Larsen

Managing Editor, Abbey Magazine

Fr. Steven Vanden Boogard, O. Praem., served honorably as U.S. Navy officer and Catholic chaplain until his medical retirement in 2010.

Fr. Steven Vanden Boogard, O. Praem., served honorably as U.S. Navy officer and Catholic chaplain until his medical retirement in 2010.

He graduated from high school in Kimberly, Wisconsin, at the height of the Vietnam War era and enlisted in the U.S. Navy just weeks later. After his service as a hospital corpsman, Fr. Steven Vanden Boogard, O. Praem., now 63, enrolled at St. Norbert College and was ordained a Norbertine priest in 1988. Fr. Vanden Boogard taught high school for five years and was then commissioned a U.S. Navy officer and Catholic chaplain, a role in which he served honorably until his medical retirement in 2010.

“I have been on more than 100 ships on official navy business, everything from harbor tugs, frigates, and destroyers to the John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier,” Fr. Vanden Boogard explained. At his busiest and most dangerous time, he was the only Catholic priest military chaplain on U.S. military bases in 2006 in Fallujah, Iraq, where he pastored two chapel parishes, served four battalions and an army brigade, and supervised five junior chaplains.

Today, Fr. Vanden Boogard lives at St. Norbert Abbey in the dedicated medical wing after enduring cancer while serving in the navy in 2007. Multiple myeloma attacked his kidneys and led to thrice-weekly dialysis before a kidney transplant in May 2015. His cancer is in remission, yet Fr. Vanden Boogard is awaiting a further surgery to remedy related medical complications.

Fr. Steven Vanden Boogard, O. Praem.

Fr. Steven Vanden Boogard, O. Praem.

“I feel as if I am just 10 percent of what I once was. I used to travel far and wide—the mountainsides, fields, valleys, and seas—‘looking for lost sheep.’ I ministered to both Catholics and non-Catholics. I helped people become full members of the Catholic Church, celebrated the sacraments, and wrote scores of benedictions and invocations,” Fr. Vanden Boogard said of his 17 years in the navy.

Despite his chronic health condition, Fr. Vanden Boogard still celebrates an occasional community Mass at the abbey for and with his confreres. The bishop asked him to serve as a priest celebrant at St. Hubert/St. Peter’s in Rosiere and Lincoln, and at St. Francis Xavier/St. Mary of the Snows in Brussels, Wisconsin, a role that leaves him free of administrative duties but vital to the spirit and people of these small rural parishes.

Admittedly, it’s now a different type of living in community, a switch from the U.S. Navy to the Norbertines, each with their own sets of rituals and routines. “Since August 1979 St. Norbert Abbey has been my home. After being away for a long time, it is good to be back.”

The Sandwich Generation

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