Maj Liam Thomas, Chaplain and his first few months at RMC

“From my own experiences over the years, a lot of people think that we can do things on our own and I’ve seen people who have let things fester and go on for years,” says the 36 year military veteran, “even those that look like they have all together probably don’t or at least have some chinks in their armour.”

Maj Liam Thomas, Chaplain and his first few months at RMC

By 27832 OCdt (III) P.R. Cardona

P.R. Cardona

Padre Liam Thomas’ military career began in the summer of 1981 when he joined an armoured reserves unit in Windsor, Ontario as a crewman. One year later, he was commissioned as an armoured officer and then joined the regular force in 1990 as a personnel administration officer.

After serving as a personnel administration officer for close to 13 years, he once again remustered into what he jokes is his “fifth profession” in the armed forces and was chosen to complete the Canadian Forces chaplaincy training program. A lifelong Anglican, the padre was happy to move into a job where he could provide counselling and spiritual guidance to those in uniform.

As a padre, he says that his job is divided into three major components. The first, which is also the historical role of the chaplaincy is to provide spiritual guidance to members of the military. The second is to advise the chain of command on issues of morale, ethics and general well being. Finally, padres serve as counsellors and as a help resource for the people in their unit.

“From my own experiences over the years, a lot of people think that we can do things on our own and I’ve seen people who have let things fester and go on for years,” says the 36 year military veteran, “even those that look like they have all together probably don’t or at least have some chinks in their armour.”

As the Anglican priest describes, chaplains are privileged because they are not in the chain of command and are able to provide services and advice to anyone. They can help connect people to other support services and provide an environment for them to vent their issues outside of the chain of command.

“People realize that they can come and talk to us and not have it affect their relationship with the chain of command,” says the padre, “sometimes they just want an ear, someone to listen in a safe environment.”

Padre Thomas arrived at RMC in late July, joining the College’s two other chaplains, Padres Carter and MacKinnon. Together, the trio serves as counsellors and spiritual leaders for the entire RMC community, including the 1000 plus Officer-Cadets at the College. Padres Carter and MacKinnon also represent the Muslim and Roman Catholic faith groups, respectively.

“I’ve seen the diversity increase and that just means that our role to facilitate the worship of others becomes just a little bit different” remarks Padre Thomas upon reflecting on his long career “we just have to make more phone calls to connect people to their local faith community.”

When the former Administration Officer arrived at the College, he found that he really had to hit the ground running. During his first month on the job, the RMC chaplaincy team found themselves dealing with two memorial services as well as the arrival of the Class of 2021.

Furthermore, the College chaplains have been instrumental to providing advice to the chain of command on how to implement the recommendations of last year’s SSAV report. The Padre believes that the SSAV will bring important changes and will take the College to a better place.

“As Chaplains, it’s about supporting change that moves us forward” he says, “because we’re around everywhere and everything, we can provide influence, support the chain of command and help people understand the benefit of where we’re going.”

Of course, RMC can be a stressful environment, as it is meant to challenge young men and women so that they can transition from high school students to commissioned officers. Yet, there are plenty of resources and support services available to help Officer-Cadets succeed.

Whether an Officer-Cadet needs help meeting the standards in one or more of the four pillars or requires access to mental health services, the College padres are good place to start. Padre Thomas reaffirms the importance of asking for help when one needs it, as ignoring a problem only makes it worse.

Furthermore, he believes that the Cadet Wing’s leadership, which is mostly comprised of third and fourth year cadets, needs to know their subordinates well and provide firm yet empathetic leadership.

“I would offer to the third and fourth year cadets to know the people that they have responsibility over and to know that good leadership also includes compassionate leadership,” he advises.

The College padres are an integral part of the RMC family. The support that they provide to Officer-Cadets and the rest of the community is invaluable and their dedication to the well-being of the unit is exemplary. The College is glad to welcome Padre Liam Thomas to the team and wishes him the best of luck as he begins to settle into his role.