Frontline Faith Project — A Q & A with Director Cheri Lomonte
Today, I’m happy to share my recent email conversation with Cheri Lomonte, Director of the Frontline Faith Project. Cheri and her organization are working tirelessly to provide faith resources to our troops around the world. I hope you’ll enjoy learning about her work and the mission of Frontline Faith. LMH
Q: Please briefly introduce yourself and your family to our readers.
Hi Lisa, my name is Cheri Lomonte. I am co-host of the Mary’s Touch radio program and founder and director of the Frontline Faith Project. My husband, Tony, and I have a wonderful, blended family of six children and twelve grandchildren. We love, help, and support one another. My family is precious to me. We are truly blessed.
Twelve years ago, my life was very different from what it is now. In fact, what I do today wasn’t even a blip on my radar then—it’s about 180 degrees from what I was doing at that time. But when you tell God every morning that you are His servant and mean it, and then ask Him what He would like you to do, put on your hard hat. That is exactly what happened to me: My “second” job at that time was as a fine art photographer. I was asked to take photographs of the oldest Madonna statue in the United States. I couldn’t find any information about the statue; so when I arrived in Santa Fe, I went to the first book store I saw and asked the clerk about their famous Madonna. He told me they didn’t have any information on her, but why didn’t I write a book about Mary? ‘How odd is that?’ you’re asking yourself. I asked myself that same question. In fact, I actually turned to look behind me to see who he was talking to. In my mind, I thought, I can’t write a book about Mary because I am not a writer.
Well, I was on my assignment for several days in Santa Fe, and each day, someone asked me why I didn’t write a book about Mary. And finally, I got it, “I hear You, God, loud and clear.” I said YES to God, and on the car ride home, I shared with God everything I’m not: God, I’m not a theologian; God, I’m not an expert on Mary, the Mother of Jesus. But a thought did come to me. I had heard some of the most beautiful stories about Mary since I have been begun making photo images of her. And so I decided to collect stories of people who pray to Mary; who, through her intercessory prayer, receive God’s blessing; stories of how people honor Mother Mary. With that in mind, I went to Radio Shack and bought a small recorder.
That recorder started me on my path. The Healing Touch of Mary was the first book. I wanted people to look at the picture on the cover of the book, pick it up, and put it next to their hearts. The stories are consoling, hopeful, inspirational, and beautiful. And when a publisher called and asked me to do a second book, I knew I was committed. But the thought kept coming to me that more people need to HEAR these stories, and so I prayed about this. It seemed like a rational idea: HEAR means RADIO, and so I knew I needed to start a radio program about Mary using peoples’ stories. I know the book and the radio show are the work of the Holy Spirit. Everything fell in to place without any huge obstacles. People in the business, both in publishing and radio broadcasting; often tell me how impossible it is to do what has been accomplished, especially in such a short time. My answer to them is this: You don’t know who I work for. I’ll admit that I used to raise my eyebrow when people would tell me they had a “calling.” I don’t do that anymore. I feel like I’m God’s active agent. I am truly blessed.
Q: What is Frontline Faith and how is it serving our armed forces around the world?
The Frontline Faith Project is an outreach ministry of Mary’s Touch, a nonprofit organization based in Austin, TX. The project distributes compact MP3 players, both Catholic and Protestant. The Catholic player is preloaded with seven hours of audio including a Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services; a rosary, prayers written and recited by children, the “Centurions of Rome” presented by the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and lots more. The Protestant player starts with Pastor Dave Roever’s story and Pastor Colin Smith talks about staying the course when they (the military) are tired of the battle. The player is filled with seven hours of inspirational sermons by different Pastors including stories and narratives from the Bible and stories from the military.
Distribution of the Frontline Faith players is through the many chaplains, of all faiths, of the Armed Forces. This is an ecumenical endeavor and given free of charge to every Soldier, Airman, Sailor, Guardsman, and Marine who wishes to receive one.
Q: What prompted you to begin this initiative and how have you felt in seeing it grow and serve so many?
I had just finished an interview with a woman for the Mary’s Touch radio show and she asked me to pray for her son. She told me he was 18, in Afghanistan, had been there for 9 months and had not see a chaplain, let alone a Catholic chaplain since he arrived in the war zone. I could not believe what she was telling me. I put myself in her son’s place and couldn’t imagine putting on a 40-70 pound pack every morning, picking up my rifle and being in a war zone without going to Mass and receiving Holy Communion. She shared with me how few Catholic chaplains are in our military. The Holy Spirit was working overtime…. I had to do something about the situation! Right then! The first thing that came to mind was putting a Catholic Mass on an MP3 player and given them to our Catholic military. I wanted to include a rosary, an examination of conscience, prayers we all know… my mind was spinning. I hung up the phone and started the Frontline Faith Project. That was March 31, 2010. We started giving players to our chaplains on July 4, 2011. We have been able to give 30,000 players away due to the generosity of many generous donors.
I know this might sound strange but I don’t get involved in how big this endeavor has grown or how many we serve. I couldn’t get my mind around it anyway. It’s too big. Remember, I’m the person who asks God every morning, what I can do for Him. I work with His agenda, not mine. From the emails we receive I know how the players serve our military and I am humbled and more eager than ever to let people know how important the souls of our military are and how we, as Christians, can help save souls. One chaplain thanked us for bringing “God to the Soldiers and the Soldiers to God.”
Q: Please share a bit about “On the Home Front” and how it supports the families of our troops.
The Frontline Faith MP3 players are for our deployed, those soon to be deployed and our wounded in hospitals. Those troops are prayed for by their parents, spouses, siblings and children. But, who prays for those who support their loved ones, who endure the hardships of separation and sacrifice? These are our heroes at home, those left behind. They too need our thanks and support for their spiritual needs. Frontline Faith created a CD set for those On the Home Front. On the Home Front provides food for the souls of those family members who send off our military, then wait anxiously…prayerfully…for their return. The CD set is given to any military family who requests one at www.frontlinefaithproject.org.
Q: How can our readers learn more and get involved in supporting Frontline Faith?
It is critical that your readers, all Americans, get involved. We have more requests for players from Chaplains than we have donations. We can’t fill all the requests we receive. It is our duty to help our brother and sisters, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, all who keep our country safe from terror. Our military tells us they are starving for spiritual support. We can’t let them down! The war is not over. We still have 60,000 troops in Afghanistan alone. Donate $24 to put a player in the hands of our military at www.frontlinefaithproject.org. It is a tax deductable donation. How can you raise funds? Ask your church members to donate. Bring this request to the Knights of Columbus. We have families skip their Sunday meal at their favorite restaurant and send that money for players. We have young adult groups doing car washes and pancake breakfasts for Frontline Faith. You are only limited by your imagination.
Let’s supply our military with their WEAPON OF FAITH.
Donate at www.frontlinefaithplayer.org.
Q: Are there any additional comments you’d like to share with our readers?
I want to invite all your readers to participate in An American Moment.
On Sunday, November 11, 2012, The Frontline Faith Project is sponsoring “An American Moment” to honor the men and women of our Armed Forces, past and present. This event will include one moment of silent prayer—prayer to thank our military for their service, to pray for the peaceful repose of those who have died, and to pray for the intentions of those still living. This event will take place at noon in each respective time zone, all across the world, on Veteran’s Day, Sunday, November 11, 2012.
We invite you, your family, and all of your friends to participate with us in this worldwide event. We are contacting mainstream media around the globe, the Knights of Columbus, dioceses, parishes, interfaith groups and service groups all across the United States inviting them to participate. This is for all Americans! Please share this information within your family and with your friends and everyone who loves and supports our Armed Forces!
To promote this event, our friend, Father Jim Evans, a chaplain serving with the Texas Army National Guard, has recorded a message/YouTube presentation.
Find our message on YouTube at http://youtu.be/0LPUQtSs3b8
“Freedom always comes at a high price.
It requires a generous heart, ready for sacrifice.
We cannot excuse ourselves
from our own personal responsibility for freedom.
There is no such thing as freedom without sacrifice.”
~ Pope John Paul II
It is my hope that this collective moment of silent prayer, lifted all over the world on a single day, will fortify the men and women of our Armed Forces and also enkindle the spirit of unity in our nation, a nation now fractured by politics and distracted by worldly pursuits. I believe it is time for us to come together as one people who together love our God and our country, serving each to the best of our abilities. I hope you will join us in this prayerful endeavor.