Newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

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

September 2014
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12:00 AM
Archbishop O'Brien Library , Bloomfield, United States
The Archbishop O’Brien Library will participate in a community-based project with Life Choice Donor Services, a non-profit organ procurement organization, during September, to raise awareness for organ [...]
Date :  September 01, 2014
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06:00 PM
St. Ann Parish, Avon, Avon, United States
The Social Justice Committee of St. Ann’s Parish in Avon will have its popular annual clothing sale from 6-9 p.m. Sept. 19 and from 8:30 [...]
Date :  September 19, 2014
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08:30 AM
St. Ann Parish, Avon, Avon, United States
The Social Justice Committee of St. Ann’s Parish in Avon will have its popular annual clothing sale from 6-9 p.m. Sept. 19 and from 8:30 [...]
10:00 AM
St. Paul Catholic High School, Bristol, Bristol, United States
St. Paul Catholic High School open houses at 10 and 11:30 a.m. Sept. 20,  7 p.m. Oct. 8 and at 10 and [...]
Date :  September 20, 2014
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11:00 AM
Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, United States
Applications are being accepted for the 2014 Catholic Youth Spectacular (CYS), set for Sept. 21 on the [...]
Date :  September 21, 2014
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12:00 AM
The Archdiocese of Hartford is participating again in the national Family Day program launched by [...]
Date :  September 22, 2014
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11:00 AM
Wampanoag Country Club, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – The 22nd annual Archbishop John F. Whealon Memorial Golf Tournament will take place Sept. 23 [...]
Date :  September 23, 2014
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06:00 PM
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Hamden , Hamden, United States
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Hamden will have its monthly Pro-Life Holy Hour Novena from 6-7 p.m. September 24.The Holy Hour will include exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, pro-life rosary, [...]
12:00 AM
Hartford GYN Center, Hartford, United States
The Pro-Life Ministry of the Archdiocese of Hartford will participate in the international 40 Days for Life campaign from Sept. 24 through Nov. 2. The success of the campaign is evident in [...]
Date :  September 24, 2014
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06:00 PM
Holy Family Retreat Center, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
"Know Greater Joy" is the theme of a Men's Weekend Retreat being offered Sept. 26-28 at Holy Family [...]
07:30 PM
St. Therese Church, Branford, Branford, United States
LYRA, an a cappella group of four professional vocalists from St. Petersburg, Russia, is returning to [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield , Litchfield, United States
A Beginning Experience Weekend will be conducted Sept. 26-28 for divorced, separated and widowed men and [...]
Date :  September 26, 2014
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09:30 AM
Holy Angels Parish Center, South Meriden, Meriden, United States
MERIDEN – The Meriden-Wallingford Council of Catholic Women will sponsor a catered breakfast at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 27 at Holy Angels Parish Center in South Meriden. Guest speaker Deacon Thomas J. Davis [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield , Litchfield, United States
A Beginning Experience Weekend will be conducted Sept. 26-28 for divorced, separated and widowed men and [...]
Date :  September 27, 2014
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01:00 PM
Polish-American Club, West Haven, United States
NEW HAVEN – St. Stanislaus Parish will have its annual picnic/harvest festival from 1-8 p.m. Sept. 28, rain or shine, at the Polish-American Club at 194 W. Spring St., West Haven. Polish and [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield , Litchfield, United States
A Beginning Experience Weekend will be conducted Sept. 26-28 for divorced, separated and widowed men and [...]
Date :  September 28, 2014
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07:00 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
Caritas Christi Center will offer a New Life Seminar for the separated and divorcd from 7-9 p.m. on nine [...]
Date :  September 29, 2014
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