Fr. Mark Mastin is finishing his first year as an Army chaplain at Schoefield Barracks on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. He recently wrote with an update on his work:
I really feel honored to do this ministry. Every time I look at the photo I have of Fr. Dehon helping soldiers during the war of his era, I cannot but think how he and I are connected. We share the same desire to help soldiers regardless of the reason for war. We both have felt saddened by what war does to the soul and spirit of people. We both have felt a purpose in some small way of bringing the presence of God or at least a sense of peace and consolation to those afraid and feeling depressed, discouraged or emotionally or physically injured because of war. Finally, he must have felt the loneliness of being separated from his community members, family and friends. There is no glory of in any of this ministry.
Is it hard? Yes! There days that I can feel drained and exhausted when trying to help a soldier, or help a family member cope with an issue of suicide, death, tragedy, deep emotional and psychological problems, sacramental preparations, etc.
But yes! I have good days and experiences when I feel that I have made a difference.
It has been extremely busy here at the battalion, as well as at the garrison chapels. In the battalion, we have had more field exercise trainings over the last several months, especially during Lent and Holy week. Yes, our scheduling shop planned these exercises during these time periods without looking at any religious calendars or consulting me. My commander was not pleased at this oversight.
At the garrison chapel level during these last four months, I not only had to perform my tasks in the field of operations at a Marine base, but I also had to leave every day to come back to each Army installation or Air Force or Navy base to either lead or help out with ceremonies, Lenten or first confessions, first communions, baptisms, daily masses, Living Stations of the Cross with the teens, Lenten and Holy Week activities, Confirmation Retreat, Easter Vigil and MC at the confirmations with the Military Auxiliary Bishop Buckon. Welcome to the military! Even though this was a difficult period, I really enjoyed the experiences.
My battalion is to perform more field exercises in the next several months. More desert training on the mainland. I will also be at sea helping. We have been notified that we are supposed to be going to the war zone overseas in phases beginning in June through August of 2013 for our nine-month tour of duty. We’ll see if this happens. We have had two cancellations last year.
We are still short of priests here in the on the island and elsewhere. I am one of two. The other priest is gone half of the time. So, I continue to manage the garrison chapels and all of the sacramental and administrative things. A retire-recall priest is coming by the end of the month, which will be a great relief for me.
I have made some good friends here. Many of them are pilots and very active Catholics. Having meals with them and their families is fun, especially in watching the war hardened pilots try to curb their language around me. On a recent weekend night we had a concealed wine tasting contest to determine which would be the best wine to order for our Masses; the winner was a Jewish wine. Go figure! The current wines that the Protestants have bought for us have been so bad that even Jesus would had to have performed another miracle to make it taste better.
In other areas of fun I have been running with members of my Battalion in 5-8 kilometer races for local charitable groups in Honolulu. In the recent 5k race, I came in tenth out of a several hundred. It was a bear of a run through the mountains and mud and rain. There were young grade school and high school kids that ran in this race too who were quite good. My commander said that some of these kids beat him and other adults in last year’s run. There was an ongoing joke that someone had to beat these kids. Well, unashamedly, I met the challenge. Everyone was quite pleased that I beat these kids!!! My commander jokingly calls me the “Beast” for still having the athleticism of a 20-year-old even though I’m 55. I pray every day that I will be able to remain healthy.
My battalion commander and other higher ranking commanders have been very pleased with my work and ministry, as well as being grateful to the Priests of the Sacred Heart for endorsing me.
That’s all for now,
Fr. Mark Mastin, SCJ