Blessing from Pope Francis impacts RCN and Naval Reserve

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LINK - April 2017 / May 31, 2017

Lt(N) Catherinanne George, Acting NAVRES Chaplain & Chaplain to HMCS PREVOST

When selected to represent Canada at the Vatican's IV World Congress on the Pastoral Care of International Students in Rome, I could never have imagined the impact this would bring for the many people, communities, and sailors I am privileged to serve. Religious leaders, academics, and university students - 130 delegates in all - gathered from around the world to address the many concerns of students living and studying in a global community. We worked long days to examine the issues faced and to provide advice on how best to support international students. Part of this significant work included the opportunity for an audience with Pope Francis, where he called us to action, specifically to help those less fortunate in our world, and to use our knowledge to advance the common good in society.

A Brescia student, Maggie McLellan, had been chosen in a blind selection process to be Canada's student delegate. Together, we presented Pope Francis with gifts we had brought. As Director of Campus Ministry for Brescia University College, I had collaboratively designed a resource for our community with a team of 18 students. The Messengers of Hope program included: "You are Loved ~ a journey in colour," an adult colouring book promoting wellness, multicultural, and multifaith dialogue, and a five foot tall mural coloured by over 500 members of the community. We gave Pope Francis the book, a framed photo of the mural, and a book of messages from the community, including messages from Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Prevost sailors, two of whom are Brescia students. (Of note, Brescia has also graduated two of the first four female Catholic Chaplains in the CAF, Padre Teresa "Tess" Drabick, currently serving Maritime Forces Atlantic, and me, currently Acting NAVRES Chaplain, serving HMCS Prevost.)

Beyond the gifts given, we had gifts to bring back. In a basket I carried with me small metal doves which Pope Francis blessed. I brought these to the Brescia, London, and Chaplain communities. A number of these doves, and copies of You are Loved ~ a journey in colour have also been distributed throughout the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). They were presented to Commodore Mulkins, to the Chaplain General, and to RCN and Naval Reserve (NAVRES) Chaplains. They are also sailing the Pacific as the course is set for Asia on Poseidon Cutlass 17. HMCS Winnipeg and Ottawa and their crews are accompanied by doves blessed by Pope Francis as they embark upon a six-month deployment for the maintenance of regional peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. They will visit China, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, and Sri Lanka. Each deployment brings a period of great personal sacrifice for our sailors and their families. Padre Joachim Nnanna requested the doves and the colouring books to improve the morale and well-being of the sailors he will journey with. In some small way now, they are accompanied by each of us in spirit, and joined inexplicably to a Pope praying for peace in the world and the common good of society, to a women's university in London, Ontario, and to a World Congress attended last December by delegates from that Indo-Asia-Pacific region. May peace prevail as they journey.