EXETER – In his two decades serving as a chaplain to the Pennsylvania State Police, Father Thomas Muldowney has faced some of the most difficult situations imaginable. He has also been a witness to the miraculous.

“I’ve seen two miracles in my life. I’m eternally grateful,” Father Muldowney told a crowd of young adults gathered for a Theology on Tap event April 11 at Sabatini’s Bottleshop.

Father Thomas Muldowney, Pastor, Saint Catherine of Siena Parish, Moscow, speaks on the topic of “Trauma, Self-Image & Spiritual Formation” during a Theology on Tap session April 11 at Sabatini’s Bottleshop in Exeter. (Photo/Shannon Kowalski)

Father Muldowney was invited to speak on the topic of “Trauma, Self-Image & Spiritual Formation: How Trauma Impacts How We See Ourselves and God.”

“Trauma is an emotional response to a very bad situation,” Father Muldowney told the group gathered.

After discussing the signs of trauma and how people deal with trauma from a psychological perspective, the pastor of Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Moscow also talked about the spiritual implications of trauma, giving examples of the real-life situations he has faced.

“Many people turn to their spirituality, their religion, as a sense of support and coping. People turn to their spirituality and say, ‘God will get me through this,’” Father Muldowney said.

Conversely, when faced with traumatic experiences, like the death of a loved one, others wonder why God would punish them or take away their loved one.

“I always respond, ‘My God is not a punitive God. God is a loving, merciful God, and bad things happen because of human nature,’” the pastor added.

Father Muldowney is board certified as a Crisis Chaplain and Trauma Expert. He is certified in Crisis Intervention and in Emergency Crisis Response and has been designated as a Diplomate by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress.

“When people go through traumatic events in their life, it has a holistic effect on their entire being,” he stated. “We cannot take away our traumatic experiences, but we can have a path of healing as we move forward.”

Father Muldowney’s message was something that impacted and interested many in the crowd.

“It was really incredible to see such a dedicated priest who is working in the field of trauma and to see how his past careers have informed how he ministers now to people,” Courtney Schmidt, who works in campus ministry at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, said. “It was also really incredible to hear him talk about miracles that he has seen and tie his faith into a field of science and medicine. It was really cool to see him explain how these personal stories of ministering to others have impacted his own faith life.”

Evan Gedrich, a parishioner of Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Duryea, said many of the things Father Muldowney discussed he had never considered before.

“Father Muldowney was incredible,” Gedrich said. “It’s great that we have priests in the Diocese with backgrounds other than the typical seminary experience because that really nourishes the people well.”

The purpose of Theology on Tap events is two-fold. It not only provides young adults with a chance to gather as a community but allows them to learn more about topics relevant to their faith lives.

“I think it is easy or tempting for young adults to think they’re the only ones who feel a certain way – or are the only ones who have certain questions about life or faith – so when you come to an event like this, it’s really easy to see that you’re not the only one who has questions. You’re not the only one who is interested,” Shannon Kowalski, Diocesan Director of Pontifical Missions & Service, said.