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NEWS | Jan. 28, 2022

Fast-forwarding event nudges priest to chaplaincy

By Cheryl Phillips 88th Readiness Division

His friends and family members use words such as joyous, humorous, goofy, warm, spiritual and approachable to describe him. Add planner, organizer, administrator and dependable to that list.

Those are the adjectives that Lt. Col. Paul Weberg hopes those who know him best use to define him. Weberg is the new 88th Readiness Division command chaplain.

Weberg brings a life experience that includes being a priest, Benedictine Monk of Marmion Abbey, part of a beer brewing enterprise, a college-prep high school teacher with Marmion Academy, Aurora, Ill., and cross country running coach to his new role with the 88th RD. He’s served in all three components of the Army, has deployed six times and has served in a variety of military jobs over his nearly 15-year career.

His educational accomplishments are immense. He holds a bachelor of arts in philosophy, a master of divinity and licentiate in sacred theology, and a doctorate of ministry degree with a concentration in military chaplaincy.

The multiple deployments took him to the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan, Africa and Europe. His experiences informed how he approaches being a chaplain.

“I learned the benefit of working as a team. Not just within the chaplain section, or unit ministry team, but also as a staff member,” he said. “Relationships were so important to get things done. It took a team for us to make mission.”

Weberg is ready for the challenge of being the 88th RD command chaplain. He pointed out the geographical vastness of the 19-state region where he and his team will provide a high level of religious support, resources, programs and services.

However, “our job is to facilitate not just religiosity, but the holistic health and fitness program,” he said. He noted the benefit of the spiritual facets of the Soldier “which are external sources of support and strength. Bad things happen to people when they don’t have those” reservoirs.

“I want to offer opportunities to grow in the spiritual dimension,” Weberg said.

Weberg sees communication as key. He plans to communicate with the functional command chaplains though regular phone calls and emails to learn how he can help them meet their requirements. He’s also a member of a Council of Colonels for Chaplains that offers networking opportunities. Even though communication modes can be informal, “I can be deliberate with those connections. That’s the best way,” he said.

His top priority doesn’t change in his new role. That’s to provide religious support, and provide access to whatever Soldiers and their families need. “I want them to grow in their spiritual fitness,” he said.

He adds that he also advises the 88th RD commander on the morale, welfare and religious health of the unit.

Weberg became a priest because “I enjoyed church activities, serving in mass and singing in the choir. I found joy in that. I wanted to share what is a source of joy to others,” he said.

The Aurora, Ill., native recalls an event that nudged him in the direction of becoming a chaplain. He was teaching at Marmion Academy, a Benedictine all boys’ high school, and was showing a movie to the class. Sitting there, he thought about where he’d be 50 years into the future. What he saw in fast forwarding his life “terrified me. I had more to give. I knew I had more to do. I felt God calling me to do more,” he said. “That was a turning point in my life.”

He went on to say that once the Global War on Terror started, he saw “TV segments on Soldiers who had six, nine, 12 months in combat and had never seen a priest. I felt a desire to meet that need.”

His superior encouraged Weberg to investigate options, and in 2007 he accessioned into the Chaplain Corps, joined the Illinois Army National Guard “and started the next chapter,” he said.

Maybe not surprisingly, Weberg’s passion is “sharing the love and joy of the Lord. Following the Lord should bring us joy in our lives, along with a sense of fulfillment. That’s a deep passion. I have a desire to share that,” he said.

Weberg likes to run during his free time. “Trail running is a big thing for me.”

He wasn’t always a runner, and knew he had to get in shape to be in the Army. He spent a year getting fit. “I went out on the high school track at night; I didn’t want anyone to see me. How fast can I do 2 miles? How slow can I run 2 miles? 20 minutes,” he said. That was the summer before he went to the Chaplain Officer Basic Course.

Running “helped me build credibility with operational units. Even if it was just sweating on the treadmill in Iraq.

“I’ve seen running as a spiritual event. Not to be addicted to comfort. Pushing yourself past pre-set limits. A metaphor for life,” he said.

Weberg runs about 40 miles a week. “I focus more on marathons and above. That’s why I like trail running. Like they say, ‘those who can’t go faster go farther,’” he said. “I do it more for the experience now as I get older. I did a 100-miler in 2017, but I prefer around the 30-mile range.”

Another thing he likes to do is collaborate with a local brew master, who is also a distance runner, to craft an abbey style Belgian ale, offering flavor suggestions. “This is the third year now we’ve brewed the beer. That’s a real joy,” he said.

And about those family members and their description of Weberg. They are “very supportive and very, very proud” of his service as a chaplain. Weberg’s mom and two sisters live in the Aurora area, and his brother lives in Indiana. His dad passed away a few years ago.