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Air Force chaplain celebrates Mass for Romanians in Italian

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Hanson
  • 407th Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
An Air Force chaplain is putting his Roman Catholic studies to good use giving Mass in Italian to Romanian Army soldiers.

Every Wednesday during lunchtime, Chaplain (Maj.) Timothy Hirten of the 407th Air Expeditionary Group goes to the Romanian Army's Camp Dracula to provide one of his daily Mass services.

Chaplain Hirten doesn't speak Romanian and very few of the coalition force Romanians here speak English. However, the chaplain spent four years of his biblical studies at the Vatican in Rome and learned a little Italian.

"Our classes were in Italian or Latin. The Romanian language is a Latin-based language or Romance language ... it is closest to Italian, so they can understand the majority of Italian. So, we give simple instruction in Italian that they will understand," said the chaplain.

Providing this service was something the chaplain started two months ago. He refurbished the building, which was an Italian Catholic chapel up until one year ago when the Romanian Army arrived.

"In the very beginning it was a little difficult, but now we have a good system and they are learning the prayers in English," the chaplain said. One of the readers, Lt. Col. Marian Popa, the Romanian Army legal advisor and translator, helps out greatly, he said.

About 85 percent of Romania is Orthodox, said Chaplain Hirten. There is a larger, more intricately decorated Romanian Orthodox Church on the site as well, but the chaplain takes pride in the service he is providing for Catholics.

"I am very happy to have the opportunity through this service to get to know Americans," said Romanian Warrant Officer Gabriel Mitelbrun of the 32nd Battalion.

It was his first time attending the service and he says he will be coming back again.

The service is not just provided for the Romanians. Airmen, soldiers and civilian contractors attend the service every week in the tiny, 10 by 20-foot plywood-walled building.

"I come to worship as much as my work allows," said Army Sgt. William Camirand, 600th Quartermaster, from Fort Bragg, N.C. "Being here all together, we're living out what the scriptures say -- Although our backgrounds our different, we're like brothers and sisters and our beliefs are the same. It's such an experience to be able to see that relationship lived out."