Sydney
16 March 2003

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Sea change for Navy chaplain after 20 years on the ocean wave

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Sea change for Navy chaplain after 20 years on the ocean wave

By Damir Govorcin

Royal Australian Navy chaplain Mons Brian Rayner (pictured) will undergo his own sea change when he succeeds Fr John Doherty as Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Sydney in May.

Over the past 20 years, Mons Brian has been deployed overseas on many occasions, including a deployment to the Red Sea at the conclusion of the 1991 Gulf War.

He was ordained in 1973 and served in the parishes of Eastwood (three years) and Brighton-Le-Sands (seven years) before joining the Navy full-time in 1983.

He is currently based at Garden Island as the Maritime Command Chaplain.

Mons Brian, 54, will continue his role with the Navy on a part-time basis, but says he is excited about the prospect of providing support to priests and deacons in their ministry in the archdiocese.

“I have some great memories about sailing at sea, but it’s time for a change in direction in my life,” he says.

“I will place an emphasis on evangelisation and provide assistance and advice to priests and deacons, and assist the parishes in any way I can.

“It’s a big job and it will be a steep learning curve.”

As the Navy’s principal Catholic chaplain, Mons Brian has seen his fair share of tragedy. In many ways, he is the only spiritual support naval personnel have during months away at sea.

In 1993, he led the crew of the HMAS Canberra in prayer during a missile attack on Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf War.

Mons Brian was also there for the survivors of a fire that killed four crew members aboard the HMAS Westralia in 1998.

In 1996, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his naval services.

Mons Brian was recently deployed tothe Arabian Gulf on active service as part of the international coalition against terrorism.

“There was uncertainty and concern because we could have been involved in chemical warfare,” he says.

“We were equipped for it, but thankfully it didn’t occur.

“Should conflict occur in the world in the near future the Australian public should respect the defence personnel deployed and not take out their anger on them.

“Defence personnel have a responsibility to the demands of government and lawful authority, surpassing even their own personal and family interests.”

Mons Brian says: “It’s an unforgiving environment, being at sea. It doesn’t allow for many mistakes. But it also gives people time to reflect on God in their lives.”