The Church in the Navy

Maguire, William A.

May 22, 1929 THE COMMONWEAL 73 THE CHURCH IN THE NAVY By WILLIAM A. MAGUIRE NEVER before in the history of the world has such a powerful fleet been gathered under one flag as that which,...

...But while grown America is dispensing from her front door a lively interest, education, priests and nuns to the hungry far East, a hungrier child of her own, our navy, pines for the crumbs at the back door...
...The routine whereby a priest enters the navy as a chaplain is not generally known...
...has plans for his use...
...The indifferent Catholic of our cities at home could watch with profit and personal chagrin, boats from nearby ships carrying Catholic boys to Mass...
...On Sunday morning, each celebrates his Mass aboard a battle-ship, his own particular parish of 1,300 men...
...It was appalling that Protestant America should assign a Catholic priest to her newest battle-ship...
...His vicar-general is Monsignor George Waring, of Saint Ann's parish, New York...
...The writer has orders to proceed to the Asiatic station for duty with the destroyer squadrons...
...Then he must qualify physically and intellectually at the Navy Department in Washington before he receives his commission as an officer of the navy...
...This parish of colossal proportions is taken care of by three priests...
...On arriving at Rio de Janeiro it was besieged by curious visitors...
...There are two airplane carriers, each carrying over twenty-one hundred men...
...The word reached the papal nuncio...
...In this navy of 96,000 men, not including the important number of wives and children, there are ten priests of America's 20,000...
...May 22, 1929 THE COMMONWEAL 73 THE CHURCH IN THE NAVY By WILLIAM A. MAGUIRE NEVER before in the history of the world has such a powerful fleet been gathered under one flag as that which, a few weeks ago, lay at anchor at the concentration of the American naval forces at Panama...
...It is obvious that the navy needs today priests of the type the Holy Father sends on diplomatic missions to the enlightened capitals of the world...
...This sentiment is a far cry from the sorry competition among Christian denominations which is historical and current in America...
...Their amazement at the largest battle-ship they had ever seen was overshadowed by their surprise when they discovered that the Idaho's only chaplain was a Catholic priest...
...His congregation will be made up of American lads who are serving in our many ships that cruise the far eastern seas...
...This fleet is a city of many souls, with its problems of communication, transport, supply, pleasure and its prime business of war, worked out daily with a remarkable degree of efficiency...
...He said as much to one of his Brazilian friends...
...He is free and unhampered in his zeal, and finds himself a powerful instrument in the education of non-Catholic Americans...
...Thirty percent of them are Catholics...
...Withal, there is a sense of helplessness and incompletion...
...But the chaplain yearned to be free of the vagabond life of the service...
...He pointed out that someone had to do this work, and that in his opinion few priests in the world enjoyed such missionary opportunities as the navy chaplain...
...The fervor of Americans for propagating the Faith has been the subject of merit and compliment for years...
...He moved to inform the Catholic press that it was the sense of the Protestant chaplains of the fleet that it is regrettable that the number of Catholic priests in the service is not at all adequate to the needs of the Catholic men...
...The navy and its needs are distant and of a lesser interest to an inland bishop...
...why the Catholic Church should apparently neglect this child of our nation...
...The altar, festooned with ship's flags, is set on the quarter deck...
...It would be a blessing were some wealthy Catholics to establish scholarships in our seminaries for future chaplains...
...In a word, he convinced the writer of the need of priests of zeal and broad culture in this difficult and all-important field...
...He cannot feel that he is doing less than the missionary working among the natives...
...A great part of his work has to do with them...
...One might ask whether the mission of a priest among men is not quite the same during the piping times of peace...
...In 1919 the battleship Idaho was ordered to convey the President of Brazil to his home country...
...Thousands of men have not attended Massó4,000 on the airplane carriers alone...
...With that he enters a peculiar missionary field...
...It is a tribute to our navy priesthood that the names of all these are frequently mentioned in praise and appreciation on our ships today...
...When, recently, the chaplains of the fleet were in conference in Panama, a Protestant chaplain took the floor...
...These American boys, who a few months or years before walked but a few city blocks to Mass, have not now the opportunity of keeping their faith strong because their priests have not followed them to this frontier of the navy...
...The bishop having given his permission to an interested priest, it is necessary that the latter be acceptable for the service to Cardinal Hayes...
...This is the most difficult step, a condition that is natural but unfortunate...
...74 THE COMMONWEAL May 22, 1929 A priest first procures his bishop's permission to enter the service...
...There are fourteen dreadnaughts, eighty destroyers and their mother ships, scores of cruisers, submarines, tenders, mine-layers, tankers and tugs...
...Priests followed our men to France at the sound of war drums...
...They come to depend on him, to trust in him with a faith equal to that of the Catholic men...
...He regards the military diocese as the particular worry of the chaplain bishop, not realizing that he has a religious-patriotic duty to supply the human factors with which the chaplain bishop may carry on his work...
...A bishop has contributed financially toward the education of a priest...
...This fertile condition is due in large part to the pioneer work of those zealous sailor-priests, Fathers Parks, Gleeson and Reaney and Monsignor Chidwick...
...It would assure our navy men adequate religious ministrations...
...Only three...
...In it all there are 45jOOO Americans, representing a typical cross-section of our population...
...Our country boasts of a number of seminaries dedicated to the education of priests for foreign lands...
...The fleet so recently concentrated is composed of the combined forces of the east and west coasts...
...Even the Sunday-school child has an interest in China and India...
...It would also free the chaplain of the thought that he might at any time be called upon to resign his commission and return to his diocese...
...It is becoming a common experience to be asked why there are so few priests in the service...
...The papal nuncio and many of the Brazilian clergy attended a reception on board and were elated to learn that daily Mass was celebrated there, and that an average of thirty men received Holy Communion...
...He sent for the chaplain...
...The army and navy comprise the military diocese of America, whose chaplain bishop is His Eminence, Patrick Cardinal Hayes...
...Months turn into years without their attending Mass...
...There are two hospital ships where men are sick, convalescing and dying...
...It does not occur to the bishop or archbishop of a large city that in the navy there may be six or seven thousand Catholics from his own diocese...
...There are some thirty navy chaplains, of whom three are priests...
...It would be easier then to recruit the right type of man for a career in the service...
...It is clear in the mind of the writer today that when he thought of quitting the navy ten years ago his decision was due to a subconscious yen for the comfortable atmosphere of a Catholic neighborhood...
...depends on him for a definite work...
...indifference takes its toll...

Vol. 10 • May 1929 • No. 3


 
Developed by
Kanda Sofware
  Kanda Software, Inc.