My ministry as Chaplain
with the Canadian Forces Reserve Unit 2010
I have been working for the last three years as a Civilian Instructor at the Cadet Summer Training Centre in Trenton. However, this year I went to a different Training Centre. Being a Reservist, I was sent to the Canadian Forces Base at Blackdown, Borden, Ontario by my home unit, the 712 Communications Squadron, Westmount, Montreal.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Base, Blackdown is situated approximately one hundred kilometres north of Toronto and thirty kilometres southwest of Barrie. This Summer Training centre is one of the largest centres in Canada and we had about 3200 cadets with 500
Staff. We attended a pre-course training for Chaplains in Trenton before the camp that set the parameters of service for the camp as well as helped in getting to know other chaplains and team members. We were four experienced Chaplains in full military uniform from four different faith groups and worked as a team.
Being the only representative from the Roman Catholic denomination, I had the additional role of ministering to the religious and spiritual needs of those who were predominantly of the Roman Catholic faith.
I also had a very challenging experience compared to the previous years of working as a
Cadet Chaplain. First of all, this was the first time I lived in a tent shared by another female Officer. These typical military tents were surrounded by thick forest. It took me some time to get used to it, especially the changing climatic conditions. For the first couple of days, it was very cold and then the next days and weeks the tents were hot like a sauna.
Some of my duties were: pastoral care, grief counselling, ministry of resence, teaching, catering to the religious and spiritual needs of both staff and cadets. I counselled cadets who, being away from their families, had difficulties in adjusting to new surroundings, living in crowded and limited spaces, living in close proximity with people from different family 6 backgrounds and broken homes, cadets with suicidal thoughts, and those who also came to
the camp with unresolved issues from their past.
Teaching Life Skill lessons for a large number such as 120 cadets in the open field, each of whom were in the age group ranging from 15-
20 years, was also a challenge. The Chaplains worked 24/7 and as such, it was very demanding. Furthermore, the requirements placed upon the Chaplains at this year’s camp in Borden were intense due to the tragic death of one of the Officers who died in a motor vehicle accident while on duty. We also had to deal with death notifications to family, conduct funeral services, and offer grief counselling to staff and cadets.
On the whole, I must say that I had a very unique and enriching experience, especially working as part of the Reserve Force of Canada. With the support and encouragement of Sr. Simone, Sr. Claire, and my community in Montreal, as well as with a motivating team of Officers, Staff and the Commanding officer at Blackdown, I was able to make the necessary adjustments and to offer my services in a military setting. The whole Training Centre was very appreciative of my ministry at the Training Centre and I came away with the satisfaction of having given my best.
Lucy Valookaren, fmm