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
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1
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
2
3
4
06:00 PM
Hartford Club, Hartford, Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – The House of Bread, one of the area’s largest urban ministries, will kick off its 35th [...]
Date :  September 04, 2014
5
6
09:00 AM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
“Empowering Catholic Social Justice Teachings through Gospel Living, Every Day, Every Way’ is the title of a Catechist Day presentation to be given by Father Chris Tiano, director of the Office of [...]
09:00 AM
“Empowering Catholic Social Justice Teachings through Gospel Living, Every Day, Every Way’ is the title of a Catechist Day presentation to be given by Father Chris Tiano, director of the Office of [...]
Date :  September 06, 2014
7
02:00 PM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford, Hartford, United States
08:00 AM
Academy of the Holy Family's Dining Hall, Sprague, United States
The Baltic Knights of Columbus will have a pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon Sept. 7 at the Academy of the Holy Family’s Dining Hall at 54 W. Main St., Baltic.  Pancakes, French [...]
11:30 AM
St. Rita Day Care Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
St. Rita Parish in Hamden will celebrate its 50th anniversary with an outdoor Mass at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 7 [...]
Date :  September 07, 2014
8
9
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11
07:00 PM
St. Lawrence O'Toole Church, Hartford, Hartford, United States
People from the English, Spanish and Portuguese Cursillo communities will be among the congregants at a multicultural Cursillo Mass that will be celebrated at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 at St. Lawrence O’Toole [...]
Date :  September 11, 2014
12
03:00 PM
St. Anthony Maronite Catholic Church, Springfield, Springfield, United States
The Archdiocese of Hartford will host a one-day pilgrimage to St. Anthony Maronite Catholic Church in [...]
Date :  September 12, 2014
13
09:00 AM
Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, Bloomfield, United States
A workshop titled "Building Intercultural Competence in Our Parishes" will be presented from 9 a.m. to [...]
10:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield Shrine, Litchfield, United States
BRANFORD – The St. Mary Ladies Guild is planning a Day of Pilgrimage and Prayer on Sept. 13 at the [...]
10:30 AM
Mortensen Riverfront Park, Hartford, Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – Immaculate Conception Shelter & Housing Corp. will have its third annual “Give Me [...]
Date :  September 13, 2014
14
08:30 AM
Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Waterbury, Waterbury, United States
WATERBURY – Sheridan Council 24 of the Knights of Columbus will host its second annual Communion [...]
Date :  September 14, 2014
15
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19
06:00 PM
Church of St. Ann, Avon, Avon, United States
St. Ann's Church of Avon is having its fifth annual clothing sale from 6-8:30 p.m. Sept. 19 and from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 20 in Father Bennett Hall at the parish. Proceeds benefit students [...]
Date :  September 19, 2014
20
08:30 AM
Church of St. Ann, Avon, Avon, United States
St. Ann's Church of Avon is having its fifth annual clothing sale from 6-8:30 p.m. Sept. 19 and from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 20 in Father Bennett Hall at the parish. Proceeds benefit students [...]
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
21
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
22
23
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
24
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, [...]
Date :  September 24, 2014
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27
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 [...]
Date :  September 27, 2014
28
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 [...]
Date :  September 28, 2014
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