by Chaplain Kate Lord | RAN
When I left the Navy the first time, I never imagined that I would come back. I had trained for and undertaken the role of Maritime Warfare Officer since I had finished school at the age of 17. People said to me, ‘Come back as a Chaplain!’ But it was 1995, and I did not know that women could be priests, so I dismissed the comments without much thought.
During the years that followed, however, I continued to dream about my time in the Navy; my heart never left. While raising two children, I undertook several volunteer roles at my local Anglican parish in Melbourne. I studied a Master of Divinity at the University of Divinity. People asked if I was planning to be ordained; I always replied that I had no interest in being a parish priest. When they pushed the point, and said that I could be a Navy Chaplain, I pointed out that I was raising two small children.
Seven years ago, I woke from a dream of being a Navy Chaplain. I discussed it with my spiritual director prior to contacting the Navy and the Diocese of Melbourne. From there, doors opened. I was made a Deacon in February 2015, and ordained to the priesthood in November that year.
In January 2017 I returned to the Navy, after a 21-year absence, as a Chaplain. My children were in their late-teens, and were largely independent. I felt more comfortable working with the staff and trainees at HMAS Cerberus than I had ever felt in a parish. I felt like I had come home.
In August last year I moved to Perth to join the crew of HMAS Toowoomba, an Anzac Class guided missile frigate. At the beginning of this year, we departed Australia for the Middle East, to join the International Maritime Security Construct, ensuring freedom of navigation for vessels transiting the Strait of Hormuz. I had responsibility for the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of the 190 personnel on board. I was required to provide Command with advice on ethical issues, pastoral concerns and morale within the ship. More than anything, however, I just did life together with the officers and the sailors who lived within the confines of the same ship. We went on tours in the foreign ports that we visited in January and February. We faced the challenges of COVID-19 restrictions together, unable to set foot on dry land for 119 days until we had completed the mission and returned to Australia. I focussed on my own self-care so that, at any minute of the day or night, I was able to be the person in the ship who was delighted to spend as much time as necessary listening to anyone who wanted to talk.
In the new year I will move to Sydney to join the crew of HMAS Adelaide. I am excited about this next adventure, and look forward to the challenges and opportunities that it will bring.
This is the role for which I was born. I love it every day. I am grateful that God has called me to serve the people of the Royal Australian Navy as a Chaplain.