Former Army chaplain who inspired famed SNL character role continues service providing religious support to local Army Reserve Soldiers

By SGT David Lietz | 85th Support Command | April 1, 2020

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — Long time viewers of NBC’s Saturday Night Live show may recall a sketch about a motivational speaker named Matt Foley who lived “in a van down by the river”, played by the late comedian Chris Farley.

On Sunday, February 9th, 2020, the real Matt Foley, who inspired the SNL character, delivered a Catholic mass chaplain service to Soldiers at the 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command headquarters during their Battle Assembly weekend in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Father Foley serves as a parish priest in the local community and was contracted by the command’s chaplain office to provide religious services for the unit’s Catholic faith-based Soldiers during BA weekends. Foley is also a former Soldier who served multiple deployments on active duty as an Army chaplain from 2008 until 2013.

“I came into the military at age 45 and had the gracious blessing of being invited to the 82nd Airborne (Division), jumping out of planes, and doing all those wonderful things,” said Foley. “I did one deployment with the 82nd in 2009-10 for 14 months. I came back to Fort Bragg and did another deployment with (U.S. Army Special Operations Command), another deployment with (Joint Special Operations Command) and then I moved up to Fort Campbell and did my last deployment in 2012 to 2013 with the 101st Air Airborne (Division).”

Foley is currently the pastor at St. James Catholic Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He reflected on leading worship for the Soldiers.

“It’s great to be here at the 85th Support Command. Wonderful Soldiers. I ran into some people that (I know). It’s a great honor and humbling experience to be with these good Soldiers and sharing Christ with them,” said Foley.

One of those Soldiers is Sgt. Andrew Raynor, Religious Affairs Specialist, based at the 85th USARSC. Raynor was at Camp Brown in Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan when he first met Foley who came there to provide religious support in the summer of 2012.

“Sure enough that (Father) Matt Foley is the Matt Foley that I guess Chris Farley used his name to form the character. They had a relationship in college. They used to play Rugby together in college. He is the real Matt Foley,” said Raynor.

The headquarters company first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Anthony L Taylor, also commented on his relationship with Foley.

“I’ve known Father Matt Foley for at least the past six or seven years. I first met him when he was assigned to my church as the new parish pastor. Because of a move, I have not attended that parish in a few years but I also see him, in his Army Service Uniform, every year at the Arlington Heights Memorial Day commemoration,” said Taylor. “I was really surprised and happy to see him provide chaplain service at our BA.”

After the service, Foley reflected on his time as an Army chaplain.

“I very much was blessed with the opportunity to do a lot of travel. I very much enjoyed going to multiple units across multiple military (branches). I went to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Being a Catholic priest, I was all over the battle space from the west to east and north to south of Afghanistan,” Foley said. “My greatest grace was celebrating walks with the Soldiers in times of joy and times of sorrow. Mortuary affairs. Being in combat with them, being in patrols with them. Most importantly being a member of the body of Christ with them.”

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