A Zimbabwean who came to Canada in 2007 with his wife and two children is now a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy.

Wilson Gonese initially came to the Newfoundland province to serve as a minister in the United Church. He joined the military as a chaplain in 2018.

“It was a big cultural shock for sure, coming from 33 C, 34 C temperatures, to minus five, plus wind chill,” Gonese told The Telegram from HMCS Calgary, somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the weekend.

Gonese said he joined the Canadian Armed Forces as a way of showing appreciation for a country that has been good to him. He is currently part of HMCS Calgary’s deployment to the Indo-Asia Pacific and Middle East regions on operations Artemis and Projection.

Each day, he visits with the sailors around the ship to make sure they are doing well. He has now completed a Doctorate whose thesis he defended on board HMCS Calgary on March 9 in a Zoom teleconference call.

For his thesis, which is entitled, “Moving from loss and lament to hope and new beginnings,” Gonese explored the closure of Park Avenue United Church on the south side of Carbonear in 1990. The church was amalgamated with Bethany United Church on the town’s north side.

During his time as the minister at Bethany, from 2016 to 2018, Gonese said it was evident the loss of Park Avenue United was still felt by many.

“So, that’s what triggered me to do a study of that closure, and I dealt with grief and lamenting, and how we can journey through grief and be able to accept it and appreciate it and start the process of grieving and get better in our lives,” he said.

Gonese will receive his doctorate from Saskatoon Theological Union, part of the University of Saskatchewan, on May 7.