Rosaries offered to soldiers

  • October 30, 2008
{mosimage}WOODBRIDGE, Ont. - Two hundred rosaries and prayer cards will soon be on their way to soldiers in Afghanistan, with the hopes of being able to send more.

On Oct. 26, Rev. Grahame C. Thompson, assistant area chaplain for the Headquarters of Land Forces Central in Toronto, accepted the blessed items on behalf of the Canadian Armed Forces from St. Padre Pio parish in Woodbridge, Ont.
The idea to give out finger rosaries — made of olive wood and safe for soldiers because they do not reflect light — came from St. Padre Pio Deacon Gary Thibodeau’s personal interactions with soldiers and a growing desire to help them.

“It’s a way of providing spiritual weapons for the soldiers,” Thibodeau told The Catholic Register.

When his son Dustin started coming home after the first eight weeks of his military training in  Meaford, Ont., Thibodeau and his wife became hosts to more than a dozen of his military friends. The spiritual conversations that arose resulted in Thibodeau giving away three of his own Bibles and a handful of rosaries, which inspired him to later give out 25 Bibles at his son’s April 2008 graduation, although he said he could have easily given away 75.

“A lot of these young guys had no idea where to get them,” he said. “A couple of them would pull me aside and would ask questions about life after death. The thought of going to Afghanistan or even dying became more real.”

So, as a member of the Knights of Columbus, he rallied his council to help out in providing spiritual resources to soldiers. They received financial help from the faith and action committee at St. Marguerite d’Youville parish in Brampton and from the Knights at St. Clare of Assisi parish in Woodbridge. The council also donated about 40 full rosaries for the wounded.

Thibodeau said it’s not about supporting the war in Afghanistan, but supporting the troops on a spiritual and moral level and fulfilling a Knights of Columbus mandate to “foster the spirit of patriotism in members and the community at large and encourage active Catholic citizenship.”

After reaching out to soldiers in his own home, even if that just meant sitting around, having a beer and bringing up something faith-related, he began to see all soldiers as his family — people to support and encourage spiritually. Now that his son and the other soldiers are stationed in Edmonton and elsewhere, this new ministry is a way for him to keep giving.

“We’ve got close to 3,000 troops over there now and then we’ve got soldiers travelling to different bases who are away from home,” he said. “This is one way of being able to reach out.”

Thibodeau has started a more rigourous drive leading up to Remembrance Day. He would like to donate 800 to 1,000 rosaries per year and welcomes any support. Five dollars, he said, will supply one finger rosary and two holy cards, or one full rosary and one holy card to a wounded soldier.

The Bibles his council provided at his son’s graduation cost $20 each, so he may not be able to supply more of them just yet.

“Depending on the outpouring of support through monetary donations dictates how we can best provide support to our Catholic troops,” he said.

Cheques can be made out to St. Padre Pio parish or to the Knights of Columbus and sent to the parish at 2 Tuscan Woods Trail, Woodbridge, Ont., L4H 1N2.

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