Saturday, May 25, 2024

Popular News

HomeNewsVaticanMilitary Chaplains: Ministering on the ‘front lines’ of the faith

Military Chaplains: Ministering on the ‘front lines’ of the faith

“We can have these ideas that the [military chaplain] spends most of his life knee deep in blood on the front line. It’s not like that at all”, Bishop Paul Mason, Bishop of the Forces in Great Britain explained in an interview with Vatican News. Armistice Day and the remembrance of the 100thanniversary of the end of World War One provides an occasion to understand the role of the military chaplain during peace time.

Ministering to families

Bishop Mason described the work of a military chaplain as quite similar to that of a parish priest. Military chaplains spend a lot of time ministering to the needs and challenges faced by service personnel and their families, he said. They provide support to officers, to families, and to young recruits. “They are very busy”.

Ministering to young recruits

In addition, they provide a crucial role in the lives of new recruits who find themselves perhaps for the first time away from home.

“They’re coming to the rather odd and challenging world of the military. They are asking questions. They want to know about things of faith. The number of confirmations or baptisms that our chaplains are doing working with young recruits who are finding themselves at a point in their life, a point of change when they’re asking questions which perhaps they’ve never asked before. Perhaps they’ve never in their life encountered the Church or a priest.”

Ministering as a Military Bishop

Bishop Mason was appointed by Pope Francis to the Bishopric of the Forces in Great Britain in July this year. He said he is still getting used to the role. The priority he has set for himself is that of supporting the chaplains. His message to them is,

“This is the work of the Church. It has prayer at its core. It has the Eucharist at its core. That is my practical role, as well as my symbolic place: to ensure that it stays as that evangelical side of what we’re doing – to bring the Gospel to people wherever we work.”

Visiting the garrison churches

He has made a commitment to visit the garrison churches. Although they seem to be like any other normal parish, he has to remind himself that each of those present is connected to the military. “They need support and I try to visit and get down to as many of those churches as I can”, he said.

Place of the Church in the military establishment

Bishop Mason has also begun to understand the importance of the presence of the Church in the hierarchical structure of the military establishment itself.

“To have the physical presence of the Catholic Church, having the conversation at that level, representing the interests of the Catholic Faith at that level, is really important.”

He, therefore, sees his own role as one of ensuring that the Catholic Church is present and fully engaged in order to promote the spread of the Gospel in the military environment.

Keeping the faith alive

Chaplains serving outside of normal parish settings can experience a struggle to keep the faith alive, Bishop Mason continued.

“There are so many other pressures to reduce the spiritual input to effectively a type of social work…. To ensure that the faith-based understanding of the Church within the military remains front and centre”.

Openness to the Faith

On the whole, Bishop Mason has found an openness to matters of faith in the military.

“It’s wonderful. You’re not pushing at a closed door. You’re pushing very much at an open door. Because the experience on the ground is that the place of religious faith in military context at so many levels is that it provides support, it gives morale, it helps people in their journeys of faith, coming to terms with what they are doing.”


Popular News

Catholic youth ministers meet near Rome to prepare for WYD 2027

The International Congress on Youth Ministry, organised by the Dicastery for the Laity, Family,...

Symposium on Palliative Care: ‘Hope is always possible’

As the international interfaith symposium on palliative care, entitled, “Towards a Narrative of Hope,”...

Pope to Jesuit educators: Always put the person at the centre

Pope Francis urges Jesuit educators to prioritise holistic education centered on Jesus, while fostering...

Pope Francis tells youth in Rome to be true to themselves

Pope Francis meets with some 80 boys and girls of a Rome parish who...