Last Updated: Wednesday - 01/05/2011
November 26, 2001
Military chaplain prepares the troops
Local forces remain on high alert for Afghanistan service
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Major Rev. Gary Marche lives an exciting vocation. He is a soldier of Christ and a Canadian soldier.
Marche, a Roman Catholic priest, originally from Cornerbrook, Nfld., is Western Canada's area chaplain of the Canadian Forces Base in Edmonton.
"Military chaplaincy is a broader type of ministry that I would ever experience in the Church," Marche told the WCR.
"First of all you work with chaplains coming from many different faith backgrounds and also with many military people who are either church-goers or non-goers," he explained.
By and large soldiers work, train and prepare really hard. But the role of the chaplains is crucial in terms of spiritual care.
"I think it is important for them to have a reminder that there is another aspect to our lives too," Marche said. "And that's what we try to provide for them."
When he started as a full-time chaplain he was assigned to one unit and offered spiritual care to about 500 to 600 soldiers.
He said, "for the soldiers the presence of the chaplain makes a whole lot of difference."
"It is all about relationship. The chaplains have a very unique relationship with the troops, not like any other officer, not like any other profession," said Marche, who was stationed in Cold Lake before coming to Edmonton.
Chaplains do not only work with the soldiers. Their jobs and ministry get them connected even to the family of the soldiers.
There are times that chaplains need to contact the family of the soldiers deployed in foreign countries.
"Our job is crucial because somehow we become the (spiritual) Internet of the soldiers and their families," Marche said.
Chaplains of different units have a strong networking relationship. They help each other to care for the spiritual welfare of the soldiers and their families.
Being the area chaplain, Marche's main mandate is "to make sure that the unit chaplains are prepared to be deployed with the troops, that they feel confident and feel supported when they are deployed."
Marche had been deployed many times, but his experience in Croatia affected him the most. "Seeing refugee camps, seeing the destruction, bombed-out towns, . . . it was pretty horrendous."
Recently, some 800 to 1,000 soldiers were given a 48-hour notice for deployment in Afghanistan.
Marche is not scheduled to go with the troops. The unit chaplain of the third battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, will go if and when the battalion is given the green light.
Discussion is still taking place as to whether another unit chaplain will be deployed with the troops, Marche said.
For security reasons, Marche was not able to name the two chaplains.
"We are still in a high state of alert, of vigilance, of watchfulness and waiting for what's going to happen next."
"That event affected us here in Edmonton as it affected the rest of Canada. I think there is a sense of dread and a sense of shock about the whole thing."
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