IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
CAPTAIN RYAN CARTER: I’m Captain Ryan Carter from Scarborough, Ontario, and I’m a Chaplain, currently serving at the Royal Military College of Canada.
Chaplains are spiritual leaders in the Canadian Armed Forces who support military personnel in their careers both at home and abroad. Chaplains care for and advise members of the Forces on spiritual expression that includes all types of world religions.
CARTER: Me, as a Muslim, I’m grounded in my faith tradition, I’m educated in my faith tradition, I’m part of my faith community. That’s my foundation. But certainly I work with people of all different backgrounds. And people seek our assistance for various reasons. Chaplains are advocates. We walk with people through their difficulties and their challenges. People trust us. We’re that impartial member of the military where people can seek support and assistance through. And that, I think, is the essence of what Chaplains do.
This can include supporting families and their loved ones, offering counselling services, and helping members with their spiritual needs. They serve on bases across Canada, and in deployed theatres of operation like humanitarian missions or antiterrorism operations.
Chaplains may also work with civilian religious faith groups in the course of their duties.
CARTER: I think that’s what I love the most about my job is every day is different. It’s very dynamic. A day could consist of me doing physical training with the troops, serving food, and just interacting with the members on the ground. Or it could be me performing religious services, doing a parade. And one of the things I love doing is connecting with the chain of command to inform them of the pulse, the morale of the unit and see how things are going. And I think that’s a function which is central to what I do – is to make sure everyone is doing OK.
Chaplains typically begin their ministries as a unit chaplain with the Navy, Army or Air Force for the first three to four years of service.
CARTER: A big part of what we do is what we call ministry of presence. Chaplains have to be present in all aspects of the unit life. Which could mean having a coffee with the members, you know, see how things are going, having lunch with them. A big part of understanding military life is simply: walk with the troops. And at the core of what we do, that ministry of presence is what makes us unique as a military occupation.
Chaplains are highly skilled in active listening and have a sense of adventure.
They have an open attitude and promote diversity within the Canadian Armed Forces by providing an environment that is caring and compassionate.
CARTER: Some of us are clinical chaplains – mental health chaplains who work in the clinic alongside the mental health workers. We have other chaplains that specialize in conflict. Other chaplains that specialize in pluralism and in ethics. So there are many options available later on in your career where you can specialize in these unique areas of ministry and advocacy.
CARTER: When I look around myself, I see myself in position where I can respond to where I see the gaps – things that are missing. Part of it is education. We all need to learn about difference, we all need to learn about diversity, and we all need to learn about each other. And one of the greatest joys I participated in is to set up and to establish educational opportunities for members here at my unit. To set up opportunities, to experience other religions, other cultures. And I think this has been one of the greatest joys of my career is to have this opportunity where I can teach, where I can be part of the change, and advocate where advocacy is needed.