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The Rev. Canon Chris VanBuskirk and the Rev. Mike Caines, both majors and chaplains in the Canadian Reserves, are taking on new roles within the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves.

As Chris steps back to lead the North Shore Regiment, Mike will step into his very large shoes, becoming Deputy Division Chaplain of 5th Canadian Division, responsible for all Reserve chaplains in Atlantic Canada.

“The North Short Regiment has been without a chaplain for over 20 years,” said Chris. “I’m trying to reconnect chaplaincy with that regiment.”

It has four platoons, in Moncton, Miramichi, Bathurst and Campbellton.

“It’s a good move for me,” he said. “It’s nice to be back with the troops. They’ve been very welcoming.”

Mike takes on the mostly administrative role Chris has held since 2020.

“It means I’m the senior Army reserve chaplain for all of Atlantic Canada,” said Mike. “Atlantic Canada is now my office.”

He will oversee the work of about 20 Reserve chaplains in the four Atlantic provinces who care for more than 3,200 Reserve members. Since 2020, he had overseen all Reserve military chaplains in New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

His job will involve recruitment, professional development, co-ordination of chaplaincy activities, including their annual conference, and the provision of necessary resources for each chaplain.

“I am a mentor and a resource for them,” said Mike.

The travel will vary from year to year, with much of the role making use of online meetings. Even so, he is expected to show up from time to time.

“I’m expected to visit units and brigade chaplains,” said Mike. 

“Mike has great gifts with visioning, and that will be ideal for this position,” said Chris. 

Both Chris and Mike manage to juggle their considerable military duties while also fulfilling their roles as rectors in the Parish of Moncton and the Parish of the Nerepis and St. John, respectively. Chris spent an extended deployment in Iraq and Kuwait in 2018.

Part of Mike’s role is recruitment of new military chaplains, something the Canadian military is lacking. 

“In the four provinces, we have at least four or five vacancies,” said Mike, adding that any priest with a Masters degree in Divinity is eligible to apply.

He encourages any priest with questions to contact him.

A military chaplain “lives the rhythm of the unit,” said Mike, adding a chaplain takes the same courses, briefings, drills and training as the other soldiers in his unit, including basic training. They must also be physically fit to pass the tests and medical that all soldiers must undergo.

The ‘rhythm of the unit’ includes weekly evening training; a weekend exercise once a month; and a week-long exercise once a year.

“You tag along and find ways to help out,” he said in an earlier interview. “And you live for the words, ‘Hey Padre, do you have a minute?’ You are the front-line faith contact.”

The diocese has two other Reserves military chaplains in addition to Mike and Chris. They are Rob Langmaid (Parish of St. Margaret’s) and Rob Salloum (Parishes of Hillsborough Riverside, St. Andrew Sunny Brae and St. Philip’s).

There is one priest currently undergoing training to become a military chaplain. As well, the Rev. Nicholas Saulnier spent several years as a captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He is serving in the Parish of St. Mary, York in order to qualify as a Regular Forces chaplain. 

Photo captions:
1. The Rev. Major Mike Caines speaks with the Rev. Stephen Harnish during the 137th Diocesan Synod in 2019.  McKnight file photo

2. The Rev. Canon Major Chris VanBuskirk during his deployment to Kuwait and Iraq in 2018.  Submitted photo

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