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One CDP’s Unconventional Life With the Military

July 28, 2017 Sr. Emily Rabalais was honored posthumously at the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Regimental Associations 3rd Annual Chaplain Corps Anniversary Memorial Cemetery at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, TX for her service to the military.

The service began as any other patriotic service with standard bearers, the National Anthem sung, and the Pledge of Allegiance recited. But then a prayer of invocation was offered and scripture read. SGM Ron Bowren, U.S. Army (Retired) greeted the guests and gave a bit of history on the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps. It was created by President George Washington 242 years ago for the Continental Army’s benefit.

Fast forward to the 20th century. Sr. Emily, of Alexandria, LA came to the Congregation of Divine Providence in 1947. She began her ministry as an elementary school teacher, then principal, and finally the assistant dean of the Oblate School of Theology working in family ministry for the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

It was told that she was an adventurous type. In the 1980’s, her good friend who then was the Director of Religious Education at Fort Sam Houston Army base, Ms. Nancy Moore, told about religious educators working with the military personnel and their families in Europe. Sister was interested and wanted to make application for the position. Ms. Moore was astounded when Sister packed her bags and flew to Germany and was immediately awarded a one-year contract as a religious educator. Within nine months, she completed her one-year contract and moved to Kaiserslautern to begin another contract. A short nine months later this contract too was completed and she was able to accept the position of Director of Religious Education. The position had responsibilities in Germany, Holland, Belgium, and England. In that position she trained chaplains, organized the USAREUR Religious Education Youth Leadership Conference, and the Youth Ministry Conferences. The U.S. Military recognizing her expertise, knowledge, and devotion to the Catholic Faith Tradition, moved Sr. Emily moved her to Heidelberg where she became the Director of Catholic Lay Development for all of Europe!

Sr. Emily retired from her position in 1994. She moved back to San Antonio continuing her ministry at Brooke Army Medical Center as a coordinator for the Lay Eucharistic Ministers for 2 years. In 1996 she became a chaplain for the Methodist Hospital in downtown San Antonio. Ms. Moore fondly recalled how Sr. Emily was held in the highest esteem and greatly respected by all who knew her. Since her passing in July 2003 she has been missed, and remembered with great love.

Final taps was blown. Friends and families of the honorees gathered for a picture and said farewell again, the memories of Sr. Emily’s unconventional life lingering in the memories.