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Retired Army Colonel Continues Serving on the Front Lines Now as a Priest

Father Patrick Egan stands out in the crowd. You might point to his collar or the way that he holds himself, but there’s something else that you’ll notice about this retired colonel. There are deep wrinkles around his eyes because he seems to always be smiling.

Father Patrick Egan, who retired as a colonel in the U.S. Army and was ordained at age 58 as a Roman Catholic priest, poses in the vestibule of the offices of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in October 2022.Photo Credit: Tom Mayer | The Cullman Times

His love for his neighbors and community is apparent in every decision and action he takes.

Father Egan started leading the Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Cullman, AL, in 2009. He was given the responsibility of taking over the pastorship and leadership of the church just a year after being ordained in June 2008. [[1]]

Father Egan says that there was a noticeable tug toward priesthood when he was young, but the desire to be a soldier was there since he was three. [[2]]

“I always wanted to be a soldier,” he said. “I remember that I was about five when we stopped after Mass. I don’t remember when that was, but couldn’t have been a Sunday because my father stopped and he bought me a helmet at an old Army surplus store.”

You can see the joy in Father Egan’s eyes as he recalls the memory. “Man, that helmet was gold. He also bought me an ammo belt from World War II.”

Father Egan would serve in several military assignments domestically and overseas, including a tour of duty during Operation Desert Storm.

Father Egan’s Church Oversees Several Community Programs

Sacred Heart School is one of the biggest community supports that the church oversees. It offers full-day programming for kids as young as three while providing a 13-to-1 student-teacher ratio.

Shawna Norman is the principal at Sacred Heart School. “What makes us special is that we go and above our basic guidelines,” said Norman. “We give a quality education, and we challenge our students to rise beyond expectations.” [[3]]

Sacred Heart welcomes all denominations and faith. “We are a Catholic school, so we teach our students the Catholic faith. Even though they participate in our program, we still respect their religion… we’re just one big family. We’re not distinguishing between our faiths, but building our community as a Christian Catholic school.”

The church actively participates with Cullman’s St. Vincent de Paul store while embracing seasonal opportunities to make a difference. One of the annual traditions is to get involved with their version of the Project Angel Tree ministry. [[4]]

Father Egan says that prayer is what has helped him and his church become what they are today for their community. It’s been a resource he says he’s needed since he decided to transition from being a colonel to a priest.

“With my prayer group for support, I decided to check out [this opportunity]. And it was a wonderful visit right after Christmas,” he said. “I came back in March, thought I had to give it a shot, and was accepted soon after.”

Father Egan Credits Having a Supportive Family

As Father Egan recounts how he transitioned more into the life of a soldier, he describes the various scenarios he’d set up at home with his toy soldiers. “My parents – God bless them,” he said. “I’d set up battlefields, and my room wasn’t big enough. I did it in the dining room, and part of the living room, and they let me keep it up.”

There’s a slight chuckle with a tinge of pride to it. “I had a rather robust arsenal.”

After spending three decades in the armed forces, Father Egan was an unlikely candidate for the priesthood at the age of 51. Like his focus on becoming the best soldier possible, he was determined to reach his next goal.

“I tell people that one of the greatest gifts my parents have me is self-discipline – not being like everyone else,” he said. “I hated doing homework. I was a procrastinator, but I already had the germ of discipline. I never did drugs. I hated beer.”

When he retired from the service, Father Egan says that he heard a voice in his head that told him he was where he belonged by entering into this new service. “I just took that as the Lord speaking to me, and here I am.” [[5]]

More information about the ministries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church can be found on its website.

 

References:

[[1]] https://saintvincentseminary.edu/br-patrick-egan-o-s-b-made-his-profession-of-solemn-vows/ [2]] https://www.cullmantimes.com/news/community-heroes-retired-army-colonel-now-a-roman-catholic-priest-pastors-the-congregation-of-scared/article_9f51bd06-5c82-11ed-9f70-7fc056ba92c2.html [[3]]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snNqqjMfN3s [[4]] https://saangeltree.org [[5]] https://www.sacredheartchurchcullman.org

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