Chaplains unite for discussions on their future roles

Major Mike Gibbons (right), Senior Fleet Chaplain, says a prayer as he conducts a burial at sea ceremony prior to the ashes being committed to the sea. Photos by MCpl Brent Kenny, MARPAC Imaging Services

Major Mike Gibbons (right), Senior Fleet Chaplain, says a prayer as he conducts a burial at sea ceremony prior to the ashes being committed to the sea. Photos by MCpl Brent Kenny, MARPAC Imaging Services

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Forty chaplains from across the nation gathered at CFB Esquimalt Jan. 23 to 27 for Mariner Spirit 2017, an annual training and fellowship exercise that rotates between Esquimalt and Halifax each year.

Padres from Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC), Maritime Forces Atlantic (MARLANT) and Naval Reserve divisions, along with three members of the Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy (ICCMC) and senior levels of the Royal Canadian Chaplain Services (RCChS) spent two-and-a-half days in discussions and presentations, and one morning sailing aboard HMCS Vancouver.

The theme for this year’s event was RCN Chaplaincy in the Developing Environment.  After opening addresses by ICCMC chair Rev. Doctor J. Morris and Rear-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander Maritime Forces Pacific/ Joint Task Force Pacific, the first day of the conference saw presentations on strategic priorities including the RCChS’s  Spiritual Health Strategy and Operation Honour.

“Mariner Spirit was developed by examining the RCN chaplaincy in the context of strategic, operational and tactical components, and sharing best practices pertaining to chaplain operations,” said LCol Andre Gauthier, Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Command Chaplain, in his welcome message to participants.

On the morning of Jan. 25 delegates were welcomed aboard Vancouver by the ship’s commanding officer, Cdr Clive Butler. During the sail they reviewed policy and procedures for worship and ministry in confined spaces on navy ships and the proper protocol for committal of ashes at sea.

“We have requests for committal of ashes at sea quite frequently,” said Maj David Donevan, Formation Chaplain. “This is a very important part of our training and work when we are at sea it is up to the chaplain on board, with permission of the Commanding Officer, to perform these services.”

After disembarking Vancouver delegates returned to the Pacific Fleet Club for a presentation by Commodore Jeff Zwick, Commander Canadian Fleet Pacific, on operational priorities. Other speakers included MARPAC’s Asia-Pacific Advisor Dr. James Boutilier who delivered a presentation on global political realities and how they relate to the RCN; Naval Reserve commanding officer, Cmdre Marta Mulkins who spoke on deployments for Padres in the reserves; and Lt(N) Mark Papineau who highlighted the complexities of mission planning.

On their final day at the base, a presentation delivered by LCol Gauthier focussed on the Army’s Sentinels Training peer support program for mental health. Other topics covered included a review of recent chaplain deployments such as RIMPAC, Westploy and Operation Reassurance, and a discussion on what the chaplaincy needs to do in order to prepare for future military operations and the new naval capability coming to fruition in the next few years.

Filed Under: Top Stories

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