Magazine article Anglican Journal

Aboriginal Priest Finds Her Calling as a Military Chaplain

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Aboriginal Priest Finds Her Calling as a Military Chaplain

Article excerpt

Rev. Capt. Catherine Askew distinctly remembers the moment when she knew she wanted to be a military chaplain to the Canadian Forces.

She was 17 years old and an undergraduate student at university. She had been thinking that a job as an administration clerk would give her a useful skill and some pocket money. Then she met a military chaplain who introduced her to the work of the chaplains' corps.

"This was during the time of [the] Oka [crisis] and the Persian Gulf War," she recalls. "The chaplains were ... taking an active role in people's everyday lives." Capt. Askew was inspired, especially when she realized that military chaplains "could talk to anyone, regardless of language or creed."

It was not until Sept. 11, 2001 that she mailed her application for military chaplaincy. "I came back to the house, turned on the TV and saw two planes crashing into the World Trade Center," she remembers. "Despite the horror of what I was seeing, I still felt that I made the right decision."

Eight months later, she underwent 14 weeks of basic training and the chaplaincy course at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden, Ont., becoming the first native military chaplain in the regular forces. Later, Capt. Askew was deployed to Afghanistan, during the height of operations involving American, British and Canadian troops. She stayed at a support base for six months.

She calls her seven years as a padre "enriching, renewing, invigorating, constantly changing and demanding." After returning to Ontario and CFB Trenton, she found herself standing on the tarmac too often as fallen Canadian soldiers were taken off transport planes. "It's heartbreaking, but it's where I had to be," she says of her five-year stint. (Since 2002, 131 Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.)

Capt. Askew is currently deployed to the Canadian Forces Support Unit in Ottawa, where her work is akin to parish ministry. …

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