20100104cnsnw00523_webCOMBAT OUTPOST SPIDER MONKEY, Afghanistan (CNS) – Like all Marines, Cpl. Matthew Munoz is there for his buddies, but the 23-year-old also has stepped forward to help tend to the spiritual well-being of his comrades in arms.

Cpl. Munoz is second in command for his squad of about 14 men; he is assistant patrol leader with the Marines' 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, Alpha Company, Weapons Platoon at this combat outpost deep in Afghanistan's Helmand province – Taliban territory.

He also serves as the company's Catholic lay leader, combining his Catholic faith and special training provided by a military chaplain to serve as a faith presence for Catholics and non-Catholics at the camp where the men sleep in unheated tents, have no showers, and use plywood with holes over barrels as toilets.

There's no shortage of razor wire, sandbags and dust, and the cocoa-colored earth is deep in mud where pools of water formed from the last downpour. Temperatures surpass 130 degrees in summer and fall below freezing in winter.

Cpl. Munoz told Catholic News Service that when his "very religious" mother and devout Catholic father separated, he went with his father to San Diego. At age 15 he entered the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil at San Diego's St. Mary Magdalene Church. He prayed more, joined the parish youth group and became an altar server.

When his father died, and he moved in with his aunt, Teresita Cpl. Munoz, in Coos Bay, Ore., where he continued as an altar server and graduated a semester early from high school.

"I enlisted a week after graduating," the 6-foot, 200-pound Marine recalled. "My mom's side of the family was big into the military, but had no Marines. I wanted to be the first. My grades were more than par" for college, he said, "but I guess everybody wants to be a hero."

Cpl. Munoz's first deployment was to Iraq, where "there was only one chaplain for about 1,000 of us, and he always looked tired," he recalled. His gunnery sergeant asked if he would volunteer to become a lay leader to help fill the need.

"I said yes. I consider it a privilege," Cpl. Munoz said. A battalion chaplain then trained him, providing tips on how to spot Marines needing special support and how to help and encourage them.

"Sometimes it's as simple as praying with them," he said.

Cpl. Munoz also received training in providing Catholic liturgies, such as those he leads for up to 10 men each Sunday near Spider Monkey's canopy-covered chow tables.

"We'll begin with a Hail Mary or Our Father, give thanks in prayer, pray for the ... military and world," followed by an inspirational reading. "We always use the Bible" and sometimes use readings from Shakespeare or sayings of the saints, "anything eloquent, holy and wise."

Then the participants share stories to uplift and encourage one another.

The liturgies end with more prayers, including one for a quick, safe trip home.

Pre-consecrated Communion wafers are not distributed, he said, because the Military Archdiocese banned the practice after desecration that allegedly occurred in Iraq.

"I miss the Mass," Cpl. Munoz said, noting that he has not had access to the Eucharist since his deployment in November.

"Mass means a lot to me and makes me feel good," he added. "But as long as I've got my guys, I'm good."

He should return home in June and plans to pursue a career in personal fitness training.

 

 

Events Calendar

October 2014
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
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10:00 AM
St. Anthony Parish, prospect, Prospect, United States
St. Anthony Parish in Prospect will again operate its Pumpkin Patch during the month October. It will be open Oct. 4-31, and all proceeds will support the parish's HOPE Ministry, which assists local [...]
Date :  October 04, 2014
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10
07:30 AM
Anthony's Ocean View, New Haven, New Haven, United States
The Foundation for the Advancement of Catholic Schools (FACS) will host its annual Archbishop’s Columbus [...]
Date :  October 10, 2014
11
08:30 AM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
Caritas Christi Center in Hamden will host a contemporary presentation of the discipline of centering prayer as silent communication with God [...]
12:00 PM
152 Litchfield St., Torrington, Torrington, United States
Oktoberfest 2014 will be held to benefit the Torrington Cluster of Roman Catholic Parishes (St. Peter, St. Francis of Assisi, Sacred Heart and St. Mary) from noon to 6 p.m. Oct. 11 at 152 Litchfield St., [...]
Date :  October 11, 2014
12
01:00 PM
Lourdes in Litchfield, Litchfield, United States
Lourdes in Litchfield Shrine will have its annual harvest dinner at 1 p.m. Oct. 12 in Pilgrim Hall. [...]
02:00 PM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford, Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – The 25th anniversary celebration of the Diocesan Rosary Rally will take place from 2-3:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph. Archbishop Leonard P. Blair will give a talk titled [...]
Date :  October 12, 2014
13
14
07:00 PM
Chiara Center, Meriden, Meriden, United States
Thomas Finn, Ph.D., will present a six-session educational and psychological workshop designed to help [...]
Date :  October 14, 2014
15
06:00 PM
Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, West Hartford, United States
"Incorporating Prayer into the Classroom Setting: An Evening Workshop for Parish Catechists," will be [...]
06:30 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
The film 'Places in the Heart' will be shown, discussed and studied from 6:30-9 p.m. Oct. 15 at the [...]
07:00 PM
St. Peter Claver Parish, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
WEST HARTFORD – The Archdiocese of Hartford’s Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry (OCSJM) will sponsor a workshop on the need for criminal justice reform at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at St. Peter Claver [...]
07:00 PM
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center, Farmington , Farmington, United States
  On Wednesday, October 15, Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center in Farmington is offering "Autumn [...]
07:00 PM
Most Holy Trinity Church, Wallingford, Wallingford, United States
WALLINGFORD – Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, will give a [...]
09:00 AM
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center, Farmington , Farmington, United States
  On Wednesday, October 15, Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center in Farmington is offering "Autumn [...]
10:00 AM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
"Are You Here for Me, Lord?" a program for the bereaved, will be presented by Sister Mauryeen O'Brien from [...]
Date :  October 15, 2014
16
09:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield, Litchfield, United States
Lourdes-in-Litchfield will have its semi-annual tag sale from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 16, 17 and 18 and [...]
Date :  October 16, 2014
17
07:00 PM
Sacred Heart Church, Southbury CT, Southbury, United States
Sacred Heart Parish in Southbury and its adult choir music ministry will have a Taize prayer service at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at the church. Taize is an [...]
Date :  October 17, 2014
18
07:00 PM
Academy of the Holy Family, Baltic, Sprague, United States
The Baltic Council of the Knights of Columbus will sponsor a benefit dinner for the Academy of the Holy Family at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 at the academy, located  at 54 West Main Street in Baltic. [...]
07:00 PM
Montfort House, Litchfield, Litchfield, United States
Lourdes-in-Litchfield will have its annual Fine Dining and Wine Pairing fund-raiser from 7-10 p.m. Oct. 18 [...]
08:30 AM
Doubletree by Hilton, Bristol, Bristol, United States
Magnificat for women will have a breakfast at 9 a.m. Oct. 18 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Bristol. Registration opens at 8:30. The speaker will be author Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.  The [...]
09:00 AM
Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, United States
The eighth annual “Unbound: Freedom in Christ Conference” will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield. Based on Neal [...]
09:00 AM
Holy Angels Parish Center, South Meriden, Meriden, United States
Former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson and abortion survivor Gianna Jessen will be the [...]
Date :  October 18, 2014
19
01:00 PM
Sacred Heart Academy, Hamden, Hamden, United States
Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden will have an open house from 1-3 p.m. Oct. 19.
01:00 PM
Notre Dame High School, West Haven, West Haven, United States
Notre Dame High Shool will have an open house from 1-3 p.m. Oct. 19.
01:00 PM
Sacred Heart Academy, Hamden CT, Hamden, United States
HAMDEN – Sacred Heart Academy, an independent Catholic college preparatory school for young women in [...]
02:00 PM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford, United States
Annual anniversary Mass for couples celebrating significan wedding anniversaries.
02:00 PM
St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, Unionville, Farmington, United States
UNIONVILLE –The Legion of Mary of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish will host a living rosary program in [...]
04:00 PM
St. Justin Church, Hartford, United States
St. Justin Parish will host an Interreligious Harvest Festival at 4 p.m. Oct. 19. Local Catholic and [...]
Date :  October 19, 2014
20
21
05:00 PM
Aqua Turf Club, Plantsville, Southington, United States
The Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry (OCSJM) will present awards for exceptional efforts in social justice ministry at its annual dinner Oct. 21 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. It [...]
05:00 PM
Aqua Turf Club, Plantsville, Southington, United States
Click here
07:00 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, United States
"How to Live an Inspired Life and Inspire Others" is the title of a workshop schuled for 7 p.m. Oct. 21 at [...]
07:00 PM
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center, Farmington, Farmington, United States
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center will offer a program entitled "Returning to the Church of My Youth" presented by Deacon Art Miller.  Deacon Miller will share his reflections on the [...]
07:00 PM
Chiara Center, Meriden, Meriden, United States
Thomas Finn, Ph.D., will present a six-session educational and psychological workshop designed to help [...]
09:00 AM
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center, Farmington, Farmington, United States
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center will offer a program entitled "Returning to the Church of My Youth" presented by Deacon Art Miller.  Deacon Miller will share his reflections on the [...]
Date :  October 21, 2014
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07:00 PM
Holy Spirit Parish in Newington, Newington, United States
Holy Spirit Parish in Newington will host a concert by Elisabeth von Trapp, granddaughter of the legendary Maria and Baron von Trapp, whose story inspired “The Sound of Music,” at 7 p.m. Oct. 24.Ms. [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield, Litchfield, United States
Lourdes-in-Litchfield will have its semi-annual tag sale from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 16, 17 and 18 and [...]
Date :  October 24, 2014
25
08:00 AM
Goodwin College, East Hartford , East Hartford, United States
EAST HARTFORD – International Catholic speaker, author and radio host Jon Leonetti will be the keynote [...]
08:00 AM
Notre Dame High School, West Haven, West Haven, United States
Notre Dame High School admissions test
Date :  October 25, 2014
26
01:00 PM
Xavier High School, Middletown, Middletown, United States
Open house at Xavier High School in Middletown for young men in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
Date :  October 26, 2014
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28
06:00 PM
Infinity Hall, Hartford, Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – Malta House of Care will sponsor a new fund-raising event at a new venue in October. “A Little Night Music Under the Stars” will be held from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 28 at Infinity Music Hall and [...]
07:00 PM
Chiara Center, Meriden, Meriden, United States
Thomas Finn, Ph.D., will present a six-session educational and psychological workshop designed to help [...]
Date :  October 28, 2014
29
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31
12:00 AM
Holy Family Retreat Center, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
Holy Family Retreat Center will present "From Control to Compassion," a weekend retreat for men and women with Father Michael Crosby, Oct 31-Nov 2. It wil explore the causes and consequences [...]
Date :  October 31, 2014

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