By Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.
In the lead-up to this year’s Memorial Day weekend, EWTN News In-Depth featured the story of retired U.S. Army Colonel Cameron Song Sellers, a veteran who is now on the path to becoming a priest. The piece was presented by EWTN Vatican correspondent Colm Flynn, who opened by saying, “Cameron Song Sellers is a veteran whose experience with military chaplains has helped him to overcome a very difficult start in life.”
Sellers was born in South Korea in 1968 during a time when extreme poverty was so rampant that many mothers would abandon their babies at birth. “I don’t know how I was found but I ended up in a hospital,” says Sellers, who was put up for adoption in the hopes he would gain access to European socialized medicine. But it was an American family who stepped forward to express interest in adopting him. “I don’t think they can really explain it in words,” Sellers says, “other than just by emotion and heart that I was the one and I was going to be part of the Sellers family.”
He was raised a Baptist in Phoenix, Arizona, and describes himself as someone who had faith but didn’t like going to church. As a teenager, he was introduced to the Catholic faith by a friend and was intrigued by the Mass, yet struggled to believe in the teachings of the Church.
“Probably the first doctrine I ever accepted and the doctrine that made sense to me was the communion of saints,” says Colonel Song Sellers. “The fact that I was connected to people not just in that church but all over the world and that I was connected to the saints in heaven and earth.” He went on to say that God wanted him there “because He wanted me to know that I was in a family and that I didn’t need to worry about my background and who I was, that my family was the Catholic Church, the Universal Church and that my family went back generations and centuries.”
After graduating from college, he joined the U.S. Army, serving in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and rising to the rank of Colonel. Towards the end of his career, he was called to return to South Korea, where he served in the Army Reserve Engagement Team helping soldiers get acclimated to the country. Recently, he has embarked on a completely new path as a seminarian studying for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and it is his time in the military and his experience with military chaplains that inspired him to undertake this path.
“Chaplains are a lot like medics,” he said. “They’re mysterious. But when you really need one, you’re just so glad they’re there.”
Feeling called to the priesthood, Colonel Song Sellers asked himself two questions. First, could he die for his parish? And the answer was “yes.” The second question was, did he believe in the sacraments? And he knew that he did believe, saying, “I saw in my own life how the sacraments really healed me.”
The story of Colonel Song Sellers exemplifies how military chaplains and other front-line ministers can send a powerful message about the faith by meeting people in their hour of need.
“That’s what I see in chaplains,” Colonel Song Sellers says. “I see what the sacraments are about. I see why the Catholic Church is so vitally important because they give us the tools to strengthen ourselves with God.”
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