"Big Four" Highlights


 

Faith in the ‘Foxhole’

Innovative program provides audio players to Catholic military personnel

Military life can be challenging physically, mentally and spiritually, as young men and women face life-or-death situations. Unfortunately, there are not enough Catholic chaplains to serve the many thousands of Catholic soldiers and sailors who daily risk their lives to protect the homeland.

Faith in the Foxhole

Responding to this spiritual need, Cheri Lomonte founded the Frontline FaithProject, which provides MP3 audio players loaded with more than seven hours of spiritual and religious content – including the Mass, homilies, Scripture reading – at no charge to U.S. troops. Catholic and Protestant versions of the players are available, and the organization provides the appropriate player to every person who requests one. More than 27,000 players already are in the field – but many more are needed.

The Frontline FaithProject recently formed a collaboration with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, to raise the funds to distribute more players. In recognition of Veterans Day (Nov. 11), Fathers for Good spoke with Lomonte, cohost of Mary’s Touch radio based in Texas, about her service to those in military service.

Fathers for Good: What is your connection to the military?

Lomonte: I grew up in the era of the Vietnam War, and I know a few Vietnam veterans. It didn’t matter who I knew from that war; no one ever talked about it. What I knew about the war is what I read in the papers. My Dad was a first-generation American, and his service during World War II was spent stateside manufacturing bombs for our troops. Again, the only way I knew about the war was what I read in old newspapers and books about the war. Until I started the Frontline Faith Project, I didn’t have firsthand knowledge of the military or any real connection. What I did have was a sense of thanksgiving for what our military and their families have done – the sacrifices they have made for my freedoms and safety.

FFG: What kind of response have you gotten from soldiers overseas when they receive the MP3 player?

Lomonte: I could mention countless messages we have received from the troops. A few examples:

“I am a soldier in Afghanistan. I got this MP3 player from my chaplain, and it was a wonderful gift. There were some homilies that really inspired me and made me think how I need to better myself. The fact that you have a recorded Mass on there was also a great comfort to me.”

“Having the player is like somebody by your side to remind you that there’s a higher purpose, to remind you of the hardships that other have had to endure, to make your hardships relatively small and to remind you of your core beliefs.”

“I have a player, and I want my best friend to have it too. I get to hear Mass every day!”

“It is hard to put into words the emotion that is felt when such support is given. More than a gift, it makes us aware of just how much the American people support the Troops. This helps keep our spirits high and reminds us we are not forgotten. Know that your efforts have truly strengthened the faith of our Troops, especially given the shortage of priests.”

“Thank you for the MP3 players. I say Masses at about 20 locations over a big area. It takes me about 6 weeks to cover all these locations. I leave the players for the men and when I return, there’s already a formed community ready to celebrate Holy Mass. Hoo-ah!!”

FFG: What was the inspiration for the MP3 program?

Lomonte: The Holy Spirit inspires me. I had just finished an interview with a woman for the Mary’s Touch radio show, and she asked me to pray for her son. She told me he was 18, in Afghanistan, had been there for nine months and had not seen a chaplain – let alone a Catholic chaplain – since he arrived in the war zone. I could not believe what she was telling me. I put myself in her son’s place and couldn’t imagine putting on a 40-70-pound pack every morning, picking up my rifle and being in a war zone without going to Mass and receiving Holy Communion. She shared with me how few Catholic chaplains are in our military. The Holy Spirit was working overtime. I had to do something about the situation! The first thing that came to mind was putting a Catholic Mass on an MP3 player and giving them to our Catholic military. I wanted to include a rosary, an examination of conscience, prayers we all know; my mind was spinning. I hung up the phone and started the Frontline Faith Project. The Frontline Faith MP3 players’ audio (content) is suggested by chaplains, priests, bishops, members of the Knights of Columbus, veterans and members from all the different branches of the U.S. Military. The audio on the players is approved by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio’s office, of the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

FFG: What plans do you have for the future?

Lomonte: Since the war is not over and since the war on terror will never be over – and since we still have 60,000 troops in Afghanistan – we hope to keep our chaplains and troops supplied with Frontline Faith players. This week we received a request for 1,000 players from a chaplain who is deploying soon. This is not an unusual request. We also have had requests for players from state chaplains. They want to make sure the military who have come home with PTS or PTSD also have a player. Our plans include raising enough money to give a free MP3 Player to every Soldier, Airman, Sailor, Guardsman, and Marine who wishes to receive one. We will continue to help our chaplains and military to the best of our ability.

For information on how to help, visit Frontline Faith.