The only Catholic chaplain at the United Kingdom’s Camp Bastion in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province reports that the troops show “a real hunger to know more about the Catholic religion.”
British Army chaplain Fr. David Smith, with the help of the charity Aid to the Church in Need, has provided books about the Catholic faith and prayer cards to help with the pastoral care of 400 service personnel in the Second Battalion of the Mercian Regiment, stationed in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
The charity has sent the priest prayer cards and copies of YouCat, the Catholic Church’s new youth catechism.
Because of these resources, Fr. Smith can hold catechism classes every Friday night followed by the Rosary and Benediction. He celebrates Mass every day and three times on Sunday.
He found that many in the armed forces wanted to know more about their faith.
“Many of these young people have been short-changed by the Catholic education system and have left Catholic school not even knowing what the Blessed Sacrament is,” Fr. Smith told Aid to the Church in Need.
“It’s no wonder so many of them lapse from the practice of their faith. So I decided to try and do something about it.”
Military chaplains work alongside service personnel. They celebrate sacraments, conduct catechesis, and help and support troops who are doing “a very demanding job in the service of their country.”
“No more so than in Afghanistan at the moment,” Fr. Smith said.
Other clergy now in Afghanistan include American Bishop F. Richard Spencer of the Archdiocese for Military Services, who will spend Advent and Christmas ministering to U.S. and NATO troops and U.S. State Department staffers.