CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Service members celebrated Holy Week and Easter aboard Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 13-20.
Holy Week is the last week of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting, repentance and reflection, culminating with the celebration of Easter. Throughout the week there were many opportunities for people of the Christian faith to meet and share a fellowship with their fellow believers.
“It was great; we had something going on almost every night of the week,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matt Berrens, from Modesto, Calif., the chaplain for Marine Aircraft Group - Afghanistan. “We ad Bible studies, celebrations and Good Friday services. We had all kinds of things going on that a lot of folks took advantage of. It’s neat to be a part of it. I come alongside them on their spiritual journey and try to help out wherever and whenever I can.”
The Catholic service members aboard Camp Leatherneck were able to meet a special guest. Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, who leads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the military services, visited the service members and conducted the Easter Vigil Mass.
“Since they can’t come to visit me, this is my way of bringing the message of faith to them,” Archbishop Broglio said. “It’s also important for me, I think, when people are far away from home to spend a significant amount of time with them on significant days.”
Archbishop Broglio baptized and confirmed several service members and took the time to take pictures with them.
“It’s always great when young Marines can see people who hold significant positions in the church,” said Lt. Col. Brian Ray, the Catholic chaplain for Regional Command (Southwest). “It was a blessing to be able to also take pictures with them to send back to their families. During the holidays, you can imagine that many family members are sad because their loved ones are away, but to be able to see pictures of how their loved one spent Easter is a way to spread some joy back home.”
On Easter Sunday, many of the different Christian services on base experienced a surplus of attendance. Several service members were baptized in a public setting between the chapels to show their commitment to God. Captain Nate Smith, a pilot with MAG-A, was one of the Marines baptized.
“As a Christian, it’s the number one thing that drives my life and it should be the number one thing anywhere,” said Smith, a 29-year-old Baptist from San Jose, Calif. “If you believe God is who he says he is, anywhere you are and with us in our hearts and in our lives at a time and place like this, it’s just as relevant if not more than back home in the U.S.”
Camp Leatherneck offers a wide variety of religious services for service members of various denominations.
“I think it’s awesome,” Smith said. “I think it’s great that they have the number of services they do for all the denominations and religious creeds as well as the different times and locations available.”