IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
KLEIN: The men and women of the Canadian Forces come from diverse regional, cultural, and religious backgrounds. At some point, the nature of a military career causes many of them to reflect on the big questions surrounding the meaning of life.
And when they come face to face with the weight of those questions… Chaplains are there to help them find the answers. The primary role of a Chaplain is to attend to the moral, religious, and spiritual well being of the members of the Canadian Forces and their families, in all aspects of their lives.
KLEIN: It is certainly faith in action. It is a down-to-earth ministry. I’m Major Kevin Klein from Castlegar, British Columbia and I’m a Chaplain in the Canadian Forces.
PERSAUD: And I’m Captain Darren Persaud, from Saskatoon Saskatchewan, and I’ve been a Chaplain for six years. What attracted me to ministry, as a Chaplain in the military, is that it is a ministry of true presence, where you get to spend most of your time with the soldiers, walking with them through the challenges that they face. It’s a diverse ministry that challenges you on every level: spiritually, physically, mentally… and it is one of the most rewarding ministries that I have ever been a part of.
KLEIN: Being an effective Chaplain involves a number of skills in areas such as pastoral counseling, psychology and crisis intervention.
KLEIN: We value the soldiers unconditionally and more than anything else, we’re there to listen.
PERSAUD: We serve with the Navy, Army, and Air Force… here at home and on deployment overseas. Chaplains live on site with military personnel and share in the day-to-day activities of their personal and professional lives.
KLEIN: You are there amongst the people, amongst the soldiers… you’re living with them every single day.
PERSAUD: This is a unique ministry, where you get to spend time with the soldiers doing what they enjoy, what they love, what they are passionate about… and learning from them, what it means to be a soldier in the Canadian military.
KLEIN: Part of the Chaplain’s role is to discuss the general morale and collective concerns of the troops with commanding officers, and collaborate with other professional care providers. This becomes especially important on deployment.
KLEIN: If they’re going through difficulties, we as Chaplains can sit down and we can listen to them and we can talk about their fears. We can help give them some advice, but also, we can do some very practical things. We can help arrange a phone call home. We can help arrange a flight home, if necessary. We can have a Chaplain visit their family and speak with a spouse, a loved one, or children about the time away.
We can help them also sometimes, when they can’t get back home, refocus the experience as well, and be that hand that holds the hand and gives them strength. It can be someone to lean on.
PERSAUD: Though many Canadian soldiers might not consider themselves religious, they’re very spiritual. I learnt very early in my ministry not to try to dumb things down for them. Most of them have spent many hours contemplating much deeper questions than I could have ever imagined.
KLEIN: Because we have no command authority, we’re able to minister to all CF members, regardless of their rank, position, or religious affiliation. As Chaplains, we’re called to serve in a multi-faith environment, while still remaining true to our own ecclesiastical and denominational roots.
PERSAUD: When officiating at a public ceremony, the Chaplain may be representing a number of different faiths and we strive to be inclusive, respecting the diverse beliefs of the people attending.
KLEIN: In countries where religion and politics are more closely interwoven,
Chaplains can also play an integral role in liaising between local leaders and the chain of command.
PERSAUD: It’s a wonderful challenge and a wonderful opportunity to create dialogue between members of different faiths, different backgrounds, different spiritualities… and not only is it a challenge to me, but it’s also something that is a gift… something that helps me grow in my faith, as I learn about other cultures, other ways of seeing the world, other spiritualities.
KLEIN: The recruitment process for Chaplains involves both Canadian Forces and ecclesiastical authorities. In order to be considered, you must be either an ordained minister… a Roman or Eastern Catholic pastoral associate… or a religious leader mandated by a nationally registered faith group. You must be approved by your representative on the Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy, which is made up of representatives from all major faith groups in Canada.
Following that, you must be endorsed by all the members on the committee and be selected by the Chaplain General. You also need to have achieved a Masters degree in Divinity, preparing for ministry or equivalent… and have at least two years of experience in a civilian ministry.
Following selection, candidates enter the military recruitment process. You’ll attend the Basic Officer Training Course at the Canadian Forces Chaplain School and Centre in Borden, Ontario, where you’ll be introduced to the unique nature of military service.
PERSAUD: Whether you’re a priest, minister, rabbi, imam, or Roman Catholic pastoral associate… you’ll develop new strengths, skills, and a corresponding sense of pride in being part of a cohesive group of committed individuals who serve both their faith and their country.
KLEIN: This is ministry on the cutting edge. It’s opportunity to grow and serve and influence. It’s certainly adventurous and it’s an opportunity to travel throughout the world as well.
PERSAUD: We minister to our own, facilitate the worship of others, and care for all.
KLEIN: As a Chaplain, I’m often asked why I don’t carry a weapon. The answer to that came while I was out doing a rucksack march with the soldiers, and the soldiers had their personal weapons, and one said to me, he said, “Why aren’t you carrying a weapon? That must be a little bit strange. It must be weird.” But his friend then corrected him, a soldier, and said, “No, you don’t understand, it’s strange that people in the world have to carry weapons. And the Chaplain reminds us that this is how the world should be.”
PERSAUD: There’s a wonderful freedom as a Canadian Chaplain to create a sacred space for the soldiers, that they may find a place where they can nourish their spirit, for the difficult job that they may have ahead… and also a place for them to be reminded that they are not alone, and that their families, their loved ones, are supporting them, even overseas.
KLEIN: If you are energized by the challenge of serving in a multi-faith, multi-denominational setting… if you’re energized by serving and growing and influencing… if you’re energized by living in an exciting ministry on the edge… I want you to consider the Canadian Forces Chaplaincy.