Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

The Frontline Faith Project is dedicated to providing MP3 players loaded with Christian content to members of the U.S. armed forces stationed throughout the world.  I recently spoke with radio host Cheri Lomonte, the organization’s founder about her radio program what the goals of the Frontline Faith Project.

JWK: How’s the Mary’s Touch radio program going?

CHERI LOMONTE: We’re in our sixth year. You know, when you get a calling to do something, you just do it one day at a time.

JWK: Tell me about the program.

CHERI LOMONTE: What we do is a half-hour program and it is based on Mother Mary.  We have two stories that we do weekly and it’s (about) people who honor Mary or through intercessory prayers that have had their prayers answered.  We all know it’s to Jesus through Mary and that’s what the show’s about. We do two stories, we interview people, they tell us their story and Father Jim Evans and I host…We discuss the stories…They’re inspirational, they’re hopeful stories. I’ve learned so much! My faith has grown — truly like the mustard seed — because I hear these incredible stories of faith…I don’t want to say they’re “extraordinary.” They’re what we should be expecting (but) sometimes since we think they’re extraordinary. They are extraordinary happenings to ordinary people — maybe I should put it that way.

JWK: Where can people find your show?

CL: We’re on over a hundred stations nationwide and in foreign countries. If they go to the website they will find where they can listen either live or where they can go online to listen to Mary’s Touch.

JWK: So, besides the program, you’ve founded an organization called Frontline Faith.

CL: I did — and it’s really a project of Mary’s Touch.  I was getting a story from a woman and when she was finished I said “What can I do for you?” and she said “Will you pray for my son. He’s just 19. He’s in Afghanistan. He’s been there for nine months and he hasn’t seen a chaplain.” And it, literally, brought me out of my chair. It was one of those moments in life and I (said to her) “You mean, we expect him to put a pack on in the morning and take his rifle into a combat war zone (and) he doesn’t get a mass or Holy Communion?” I just couldn’t believe it.

The Christmas before this we had taken some of the Mary’s Touch shows and put them on little MP3 players for the homeless in the town where I live. And so it was a quick application to say “Let’s do another player. Let’s do an MP3 player but have a mass on it, have a rosary, have the prayers that we all grew up with for our military (and) give it to them.”  So, it took about four or five months. We got all the audio put together and we started giving them, our military, these little MP3 players and, this last July 4th, it’s been two years since we’ve given them out.  We’ve given out 30,000 players.

JWK: Are these all designed strictly for Catholics?

CL: Well, we first started with a Catholic player because I’m Catholic and that’s what I know the best. But we had so many Protestant chaplains calling us (and) asking us “Could you do a Protestant player? And, in the meantime, would you send us your Catholic players?”  And so I spoke with our Vicar General and he said “Yes, by all means.” So, we have a Protestant player. And, there again, it’s over seven hours.

It starts out with Dave Roever who is a minister and has a story that is such a story of faith — especially in this Year of Faith. He’s the most incredible man I think I’ve ever met. And then we have Protestant chaplains who actually called us. So, we asked them for their stories and they quote Bible verses and then explain them. So the Catholic and the Protestant MP3 player are both spiritual support our military need.

I’ve quoted this soldier (who) just made my heart sad when he said “We are starving for spiritual support. Please help us.”

JWK: Do the soldiers in the field feel they’re not getting enough spiritual support?

CL: Well, especially the Catholics because two years ago — when we started this — there were 281 chaplains. Today we have less than 200 chaplains.  And our chaplains are so devoted to our military but they can only do so much — and that’s to get on a helicopter and go from forward operating base to forward operating base, to be in the hospitals, to help the wounded, to help their families. So, the Catholics have a huge shortage of chaplains. But…we just got a call from (a chaplain) at Fort Bliss. They’re getting ready to be deployed in December and he said “Could you send me 300 Catholic MP3 players and 700 Protestant players? I want to serve all my men.”

JWK: What exactly is on these players?

CL: Each player, both the Catholic and the Protestant, have over seven hours of audio…and it’s about the size of a package of gum. The military loves the technology. They don’t have to read. They don’t need a light. They just have little ear buds that they plug in and away they go. Archbishop (Timothy P.) Broglio who heads up our United States Military Services has a beautiful mass — a memorial mass — that he says. He gives a beautiful blessing.  We have the auxiliary bishops of the military for the Warrior Rosary. They each say a decade and, no matter where they were, we recorded them doing a decade of the Rosary. But it wasn’t just reciting. It was, first of all, let’s apply this to your life right now.  And then the Hail Marys and the Our Fathers. It is just beautiful.

On each one of the players, there’s over two and a half hours of stories by the military for the military.  They encourage one another. I think you even said it on your blog — they “encourage one another and build each other up.” I love that quote. It’s from Thessalonians. And it’s (also) beautiful music. It’s prayers that we’ve all grown up with. It’s students that wrote letters to our military and they are reading their letters.

We would do more…Right now, it’s amazing but I think people think the war is over and we do not have the funds to make the players. I mean we’re in desperate need of donations…We have more requests than we can fill. We don’t manufacture them unless we can pay for them.

JWK: That’s a little bit different than how the government works.

CL: What do you mean a little bit? A huge difference! And I think people think we see pictures of our troops coming home but I must tell you that I had the chaplain of a state, and he asked me not to say which one, call me and tell me that his National Guard had just come home and that they needed the players now more than ever and (asked if) I could send him 25,000 players because of the suicide rate. And I had to tell him no…You know what would be great, would be $100,000 because then we could fill all the orders. And it sounds like so much money but, you know, I tell people if we are one in the Body of Christ then when one of us hurts we all hurt.

JWK: Have you received support from the Church?

CL: Not the, quote, “big” Church (but) I have received support from parishes.

JWK: Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t touched on.

CL: Yes. We have also done a two-set CD that is called On the Homefront and it’s for the families that are left when their loved one deploys. And they have such hardships — of separation, of sacrifice and, you know, we need to support their spiritual needs also. So, we have the two-disc On the Homefront CD set for them.  We give that to anybody in the military for free — just like we do the MP3 players.

And then I do have kind of a special for you because we have not presented this to the public yet but I wanted to tell you about it…We are going to do something that’s called An American Moment because I believe our nation needs to take a moment for unity and for prayer. And on November 11th, at 12 o’clock wherever you are — so it’s not by time zone, it’s just wherever you are at 12 o’clock — we’re asking really everyone in the world because we’re going to be on Vatican Radio and that’s going to be worldwide — to take a moment and to pray for and to think about the veterans who have given their life for this country, for our freedom, for the veterans of today and for our military.

JWK: That’s November 11th?

CL: November 11th which is a Sunday. That’s Veterans’ Day. And it’s called An American Moment. I thought wouldn’t be nice if we could all come together. This doesn’t have to do with theology. This has to do with faith. We’re gonna put up a YouTube display.

JWK: If you send me the link, I’ll put it up on the blog.

CL: Of course! You bet!…You know, the media shows the troops coming home (but) we still have 60,000 troops in Afghanistan. We have troops in 75% of countries in the world.

JWK: So even when the troops return from Afghanistan there are still soldiers all over the world that could use these.

CL: Yes! Actually they’re begging for them.

JWK: Do you have military in your family? What led you to this commitment?

CL: Actually, I don’t and I knew nothing really about the military but have my eyes been opened since I started this and it was that woman telling me (about) our soldiers.

As a matter of fact one soldier said he was in Afghanistan for nine months (and) he attended three masses the whole time. I put myself in their place and I thought I couldn’t do that. I know God is right with me but I just didn’t understand how people could go into battle…for us and not be able to receive Holy Communion or they’ve been there but they’ve never seen a chaplain. That just doesn’t seem right but I know our military chaplains are doing the best job they can and we can’t replace them but they call this their best aid. They call this the best weapon that our military has.  And it’s an MP3 player.

JWK:  And if people want to donate they can go to

CL: Yes. Thank you.

2012 Goal:6,000 players to be given to
our troops this year

Project-to-Date: 30,193 players already in the
hands of our military

Total Delivered: 2643 since Jan 1

Cost per player: $24

Immediate Need: $9,600

You can donate here.

Note: This blog was edited slightly since its original posting to include the Immediate Need figure.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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