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USS Monterey hosts American students from the Vatican
American students from the Vatican toured the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) on Nov. 12, 2017, to gain an understanding of life on a U.S. Navy warship.
The students included two deacons studying to become Roman Catholic priests as well as two priests – one of whom is a Navy Reserve chaplain – working toward their doctoral degrees.
“This is a great opportunity to share with them the importance of Navy chaplaincy,” said Lt. Williams Butts, the Monterey’s chaplain, noting a shortage of Catholic priests in the Navy.
The Navy Chaplain Corps is made up of more than 800 chaplains who represent more than 100 Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and other denominations.
The Monterey, which has a crew of approximately 30 officers and 300 enlisted members, began a surge deployment in October to the U.S. 5th Fleet and U.S. 6th Fleet areas of operation. Its mission is to support maritime security operations and to increase theater security cooperation and forward naval presence.
“Taking a tour of the Monterey is an opportunity to show the priests and deacons what the environment of a ship is like on deployment,” Butts said. “It gave them a chance to see how ministry work is different on the ship compared to being in a church setting.”
Military chaplains facilitate service members’ First Amendment rights to have freedom of religion while in port or on deployment, Butts said. They provide religious guidance, assist with the religious requirements of all faith, and advise their commanders on moral, ethical and morale issues.
“As chaplains, we not only hold religious services,” Butts said. “We teach classes like suicide prevention and stress management. We also train lay leaders to lead faith groups not represented by a chaplain.”
“We are also someone Sailors can talk to when they need an ear to listen,” he said. “We are here to help get people through the deployment and help Sailors deal with the struggles of being away from family as well as the stress of the job.”