Back in December, I saw an update on the PWOC website about moving all PWOC operations to the local installation levels, including training and retreats. I was a little confused about what this post was saying so I just left it and continued on with Christmas.
At our meeting this week our president was attending our group so I blatantly asked her what was going on with PWOC. She was surprised I knew, because they were receiving e-mails from regional leadership regularly and the final word came down just this past week and she shared it with us.
According to the Office of the Chief of Chaplains, PWOC International/Regional and all other chapel auxiliaries have been ordered to disband by the end of February.
This is the directive issued on December 12
“Chapel Auxiliaries, such as Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC), Military Council of Catholic Women (MCCW), Protestant Men of the Chapel (PMOC), and Protestant Youth of the Chapel (PYOC), serve as local groups that assist and support the chapel program under the authority of the senior Installation Management Command Chaplain assigned to the Installation or Garrison. The Department of the Army Chief of Chaplains provides oversight, the Installation Management Command (IMCOM) Command Chaplain provides management and the senior IMCOM Garrison Chaplain supervises their ministry. All funding, to include designated offerings, will be collected and distributed at the Garrison level. Any level of chapel auxiliary organization, other than so designated, is unauthorized.”
The blog post from the PWOC site can be seen here.
Using plain speak, the large organization of PWOC International and PWOC Regional will no longer exist. There will be no more large conferences (like I one I just attended in November), there will be no more big leadership training, resources will not be as accessible, and there will be no funds available other than what is provided by the local base chapel. Specifics are still being worked out but it appears that there will not be the general rules and guidelines that dictate the policies and procedures on how individual PWOC chapters are supposed to operate. But it's possible somebody is working on that part.
This news seemed to hit our small group of women like a ton of bricks. Tears were shed. What will happen to this ministry? What if a local PWOC group does not have the support of their base chaplain? Don't they understand what a great support and influence PWOC and the other chapel auxiliaries have over the military family, the local community, and the base quality of life?
The general feeling was that because of funding and overall budget cuts by the military, somebody higher up was looking for where to save money and decided chapel auxiliaries were a good thing to go. They probably didn't even fully understand what they were! PWOC is under the Army, though it crosses to all branches of the military.
We asked if there was anything to be done. Could we petition? Should we try writing letters? How awesome would it be if we all marched on Washington to bring our cries?!
But overall I think we all felt a silent resignation that this is out of our hands. God ultimately can make things happen and if he so desires PWOC will return. The framework is already there. We will submit to our leadership and pray for a change.
Looking on the bright side we discussed the fact that individual installations could still reach out to other local installations for support and camaraderie. What's to keep us from getting together for our own little conference or retreat?
When I attended the PWOC International Conference in November, I heard rumors that this would be the last big international conference. But this information was not what I was expecting.
I am deeply saddened by the news. PWOC has been a very important piece of my life and I personally know the influence it can have on women. Perhaps another time I will share what it has done for me.
Please pray for the military women and families who are impacted and pray for the chaplains who we now look to even more.