Caring for Spiritual, Moral and Psychological Wounds

Caring for Spiritual, Moral and Psychological Wounds

By Lisa Foster, BA’92

The responsibility of having to tell family members a loved one has died is no easy or enviable task. Nor is helping others with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide pre­ven­tion and inter­vention, and marital counseling. Yet for the Rev. Gerald Igboanusi, MS’14, this is his normal day-to-day.

Igboanusi, a native of Nigeria who is a U.S. citizen and has lived in this country for 17 years, currently serves as the Battalion Chaplain for the 394th Combat Sustainment and Support Battalion in Fremont, Nebraska. This is an Army Reserve unit with an assigned strength of 850 soldiers living in Nebraska, Missouri and South Dakota. “I care for soldiers who experience spiritual, moral and psychological wounds,” he explains.

Igboanusi, who earned his master’s degree in counseling, credits his Jesuit, Creighton education for providing him with the tools to do his job well when the going gets tough. “My counselor education training prepared me well to work with military personnel and their families in the areas of spiritual and family counseling, trauma, PTSD, grief, loss, and to respond to all emergencies or crises,” he says.

Igboanusi has continued to expand his knowledge and skills through Creighton’s doctoral program in interdisciplinary leader­ship, in which he is currently an EdD candidate.

“In my doctoral courses at Creighton, I learned how to lead and do ministry in a plural­istic military environment,” Igboanusi says. “Prayer was the hallmark of my education at Creighton and is the center of my work today. Prayer helps me to speak to the lives of my soldiers and remind them of who they are in Christ. When soldiers come into my office for help, I ask for their permission to pray with them. Ninety-nine percent of the time they say yes and if they are non-Christians, I ask them to pray in their own tradition.

“Such an invitation often changes the dialogue and opens up a deeper level within an already existing relationship. That is the beauty of being a chaplain and an officer. Other officers cannot do that due to the separation of church and state. Army chaplains, however, are given the authority to explore spirituality through the First Amendment clause of our Constitution and Army Regulation 165-1, which guarantees the free exercise of religion.”

Igboanusi says the Army is very proactive when it comes to the mental health of service members.

“The Army also places a high priority in honor­ing fallen heroes,” he says. “For this reason, all Army chaplains are asked to be in a 24/7 state of readiness for death notifications, military funerals and memorial ceremonies. My service uniform and pastoral care kit are always packed and ready to go in case the call comes.”