-- Catholic News Agency
Project Sends Spiritual Relief To The Frontlines
WASHINGTON D.C., November 2 (CNA) .- For more than two years, the Frontline Faith Project has worked to send MP3 players with Catholic content to U.S. troops, who may not be have regular access to a chaplain or religious services.
"The whole idea was to bring the Catholic Church to those troops who don't have a chaplain available to them," said Cheri Lomonte, founder of the Frontline Faith Project.
The project was initially founded in response to a shortage of Catholic chaplains in the military. Working as the co-host of Mary's Touch radio program, Lomonte received a prayer request for a listener's son who had been in Afghanistan for nine months without seeing a Catholic chaplain.
"I had to do something about this," she told CNA in an Oct. 31 interview, adding that she "knew right then it was the Holy Spirit."
Lomonte had previously been involved in efforts to give MP3 players with recorded stories to the homeless in Austin, Texas, and decided to apply this idea to the military to "make sure that they can hear a Mass and a Rosary," even if they cannot access a chaplain.
"If we can't bring them the Catholic Church, we have to bring them something," she said.
She began to look for material and ask for permission to use it. She eventually assembled more than seven hours of material, including a presentation that Archbishop Fulton Sheen gave at West Point, an examination of conscience, a recording of a Mass celebrated by Military Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio and a recitation of the Rosary.
The MP3 player also includes Church music, children reading letters that they wrote to members of the armed forces and inspiring military stories.
Soon, she said, Protestant chaplains were calling her to request a non-denominational Christian version. The result was a second set of recordings, with talks, stories, songs, reflections and letters, but without distinctively Catholic features such as the Mass and Rosary.
Since 2010, the Frontline Faith Project has sent out some 30,000 MP3 players, and Lomonte said they are "just getting started."
The organization focuses on sending the players to those who are deployed, soon to be deployed or are wounded and in a veteran's hospital. Unlike a book, she explained, the MP3 players do not require light to use, they are not bulky or heavy to carry around and they use technology that many members of the military are already familiar with.
In her work to assemble the recordings, Lomonte also talked to numerous military wives and saw the "huge sacrifice" made by all the members of a military family. This sparked an idea to make something for military families and eventually led to the creation of a 2-CD set entitled, "On the Home Front."
"The responses have been pretty amazing," she said, pointing to notes of gratitude from soldiers and family members.
Chaplains have also given Lomonte their thanks, with one referring to the MP3 player as "the best weapon they've ever had."
Lomonte does not charge to send the players to the troops but instead collects money through online fundraising at the Frontline Faith Project website. Each MP3 player costs about 24 dollars to send.
In the last eight months, donations have dropped because people think the war in Afghanistan is over, she noted.
However, troops are still being deployed and "we have military all over the world," she said, explaining that chaplains have requested hundreds of MP3 players for U.S. troops being deployed in December.
As a result, Lomonte reported that the group has "more orders than we can fill," and "when we can't fill them, it hurts."
She explained that "we have these military putting their lives on the line for us. I think as Americans, we have a responsibility to them. They make sure we have our freedoms and we are safe."
For Veteran's Day, which is observed on Nov. 11, the Frontline Faith Project is asking Americans to join in "An American Moment," pausing at noon local time for a moment of silent prayer - giving thanks for veterans, remembering those who have been killed in combat and praying for those who are alive.
The current Year of Faith is a good time to come together in love for God and country, said Lomonte, adding that after the bitter divisions of this election season, she hopes the effort can help "bring us all back together."
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