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    Lay Leader Sets Example for Others of Different Faiths



    Story by Seaman Jairus Bailey 

    USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69)

    As USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) shifted colors and got underway, and new Sailors were pulled away from their creature comforts and routines for their first time, they didn't have to forgo their connection to their faith, family and shipmates.
    Religious Ministries’ (RELMIN) lay leaders allow Sailors of different religions to stay connected to their spirituality while out to sea. Lt. James Berg, Ike’s RELMIN Catholic lay leader, helps fulfill the spiritual needs of Catholic Sailors by assisting Ike’s current Catholic chaplain and by holding prayer and scriptural meetings when Ike has no Catholic priest or chaplain available.
    “I first started as a lay leader when I initially received my commission,” said Berg. “As soon as I arrived at my first ship, USS Arlington, and found out there was no Catholic priest assigned to the ship, I immediately shared my interest with the ship’s chaplains of becoming a Catholic lay leader.”
    Not every faith group will have direct representation by a Navy chaplain for their spiritual needs aboard the Ike during periods of being underway. During those times, a lay leader can help to substitute and lead fellow shipmates in spiritual communion.
    “Having a Catholic Chaplain aboard is rare,” said Chief Religious Programs Specialist Cecil Collins, Ike’s RELMIN leading chief petty officer. “They are in such high demand aboard ships.”
    The process of becoming a lay leader must not be rated a Religious Programs Specialist, be in good standing with their faith’s home church, undergo training directed by Navy chaplains, and be approved and designated by the commanding officer.
    Berg said his training was completed by a Catholic priest.
    “We went through the specific natures of the Catholic faith, how to execute a Catholic lay service, and in general went over the role of the lay leader and what he or she can and can’t do,” said Berg.
    Commanding officers may permit lay leaders to provide specified religious rites, sacraments or ordinances to their shipmates who share the same religion if their religious organization permits them to do so.
    “Specifically, as a Catholic lay leader, I don’t have the ability to speak on behalf of the faith, minister on the faith or offer some of the privacy an actual Chaplain can,” said Berg. “I’m there to exclusively to help people of my faith community pray and grow stronger together.”
    Lay-led religious services are integral to the command religious programs, which constitute a temporary accommodation for one year or more when command assigned chaplains are unable to provide or otherwise facilitate religious services to help accommodate shipmate’s religious diversity.
    “Personally, I identify so much strongly with my faith,” said Berg. “It’s how I define myself as a person. It’s also the reason I volunteered to become a lay leader. Simply put, I stay connected spiritually by constantly praying and thinking of God throughout the day. I wanted to provide that same opportunity to my fellow shipmates who would not be otherwise exposed or stay connected to their faith without a Catholic chaplain or priest.”
    With home religious services separated by the waves of the sea, Sailors may use internet e-mail and phone calls to help stay connected to their families at home.
    “To help stay connected to our families, we would say prayers for our family back at home during Sunday Mass,” said Berg. “My wife and sons would sometimes light a candle, something specific to the Catholic faith, for me back home after Sunday services.”
    Berg said, it’s fun to see the Sailors who participate in the lay leader religious meetings and develop friendships among and outside the lay leader led fellowships.
    “The beauty of religion in a sense is that it allows you to get to know other good people who view the world from a similar moral perspective as yourself,” said Berg. “There is a good sense of community, and we can really understand and connect with each other.”
    Berg said before Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Leszek Skikorski was assigned to Ike, Berg had been asked to be Ike’s Catholic lay leader for an interim period, when there was no Catholic chaplain or priest available.
    “Now that we have a Catholic priest, Chaplain Skikorski, my job as a lay leader is to assist him with whatever he needs,” said Berg. “Essentially another pair of hands.”
    “Lt. Berg is pretty great,” said Skikorski. “He contributes a great deal in his current role as a Catholic lay leader.”
    If you are interested in becoming a lay leader and fellowshipping with shipmates of the same faith, talk to Chief Collins or a chaplain.



    Date Taken: 05.02.2019
    Date Posted: 05.06.2019 08:07
    Story ID: 320835
    Location: ATLANTIC OCEAN

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    Lay Leader Sets Example for Others of Different Faiths