In Memoriam: Army Capt. Fr. Michael Quealy

Chaplain (Captain) Michael Quealy of New York City joined the Army in early 1965 because he wanted to serve the soldier who had no time to search for the Sacraments. He knew that if there is no priest to celebrate the Mass, to serve Communion, to hear Confessions, to Anoint the sick, then the soldier will go into battle and perhaps into eternity, spiritually unarmed. And Father Quealy did not want that to happen.

Commissioned a First Lieutenant, Father Quealy underwent training at the U. S. Army Chaplain School, then was assigned to Fort Ord, California. In January, 1966, he was promoted to Captain. In June, he was assigned to Vietnam, to the 1st Infantry Division.

Serving with the 2nd and, more recently, the 3rd Brigades, Father Quealy gradually formulated a solution to the question he was forever asking: How can I be sure to be in the right place at the right time? He rode the Dust Off medical evacuation helicopters into the battle area, then, when there was more than one wounded, would jump off into the action, there to help treat and evacuate the wounded, to pray with the injured, give Extreme Unction to the dying, and to console the shaken survivors.

He had seen battle in Operation El Paso, Operation Shenandoah, and, finally, in Operation Attleboro. For him, the battle of November 8 differed only in the way it ended.

“He was talking to the wounded who were laying on litters around the Command Post. Bullets were coming from everywhere, but he kept going from one man to another, doing his job,” said one lieutenant.

“He asked me where the most action was,” a sergeant recalled. “Then I saw him run right down there and start pulling the wounded out. I know at least five of those guys owe their lives to him.”

“The bravest man I have ever seen, said Jack Whitted, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry.

A soldier who was near him when he died explained how it was: “there were three machine guns firing at us down in this corner. One of them got Father Mike and he fell, right on the edge of the battle area.” And so, trying to save a soldier’s life and soul, Father Michael Quealy was killed.

“Greater love that this no man has, that a man lay down his life of his friends.” “As long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for Me.”

CAPT – O3 – Army – Reserve
37 year old Single, Caucasian, Male
Born on Sep 11, 1929
From NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Length of service 1 year.
His tour of duty began on Jun 13, 1966
Casualty was on Nov 08, 1966
SOUTH VIETNAM
HOSTILE, GROUND CASUALTY
GUN, SMALL ARMS FIRE
Body was recovered
Religion:  ROMAN CATHOLIC

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Upon the death of battlefield chaplain Fr. Michael Quealy, the above article was issued as a Press Release (Rel No. 1484-11-66) by the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division . His name appears on the Vietnam Wall, panel 12E, line 43.

Fr. Aloysius Schmitt, Chaplain Thomas Kirkpatrick

Chaplain Capt. Thomas Leroy Kirkpatrick, assigned to the USS Arizona, and Chaplain Lt. j.g. Aloysius H. Schmitt, acting chaplain aboard the USS Oklahoma, were killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor. They were the first chaplains of any branch of the United States military forces to give their lives in World War II and the second and third to die in action in the history of the U.S. Navy.

The “History of the Chaplain Corps” details the final moments in the lives of the two Navy chaplains.

Chaplain Kirkpatrick, born July 5, 1887 in Cozad, Neb, was nearing the end of his time in the military – a career Navy man who had served his country for more than 20 years. He reported to the USS Arizona in September 1940 and had been promoted to captain just a few months earlier on July 1, 1941. As a Protestant chaplain aboard the ship, he not only held Sunday worship services, but also performed duties in the role of psychologist, social worker and social coordinator to his fellow shipmates.

It was prophetic that just a few days before the Dec. 7 attack, Chaplain Kirkpatrick penned a note to a friend and fellow chaplain on the USS North Carolina. “This is a tense week with us out here, and before you get this it will be decided one way or another, doubtless,” he said.

On the tragic morning, Kirkpatrick was in the wardroom of the Arizona, enjoying a cup of coffee with some of his fellow officers. Historical reports explain that the wardroom mess was across from the admiral’s cabin on the left side of the second deck and presume that when the attack began, the chaplain rushed to his battle station in the sickbay to minister to any casualties. The reports note that the location of sickbay on the Arizona was on the same deck and just forward of gun turret number one. Most of the men in that area of the ship instantly died when the massive explosions of the forward magazines rocked the mighty battleship.

Chaplain Kirkpatrick, along with 1,176 other Sailors, lies forever entombed in the remains of the battleship on the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

Roman Catholic Chaplain Lt. j.g. Aloysius H. Schmitt, born Dec. 4, 1909 in St. Lucas, Iowa, was at the beginning of his naval career. Appointed as acting chaplain on June 28, 1939, he was serving his first tour of duty at sea onboard the USS Oklahoma (BB-37) at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He had just finished celebrating his morning mass when the attack began. As the assault on the Navy’s fleet raged, Chaplain Schmitt went to the ship’s sick bay to minister to the injured and dying.

When the Oklahoma was struck and water poured into her hold, the ship began to list and roll over. Many men were trapped. Schmitt found his way – with other crew members – to a compartment where only a small porthole provided enough space to escape.

Chaplain Schmitt helped other men, one by one, to crawl to safety. When it became his turn, the chaplain tried to get through the small opening. As he struggled to exit through the porthole, he became aware that others had come into the compartment from which he was trying to escape. As he realized that the water was rising rapidly and that escape would soon be impossible, he insisted on being pushed back through the hole so that he could help others who could get through the opening more easily. Accounts from eyewitnesses that have been published in the Arizona Memorial newsletter relate that the men protested, saying that he would never get out alive, but he insisted, “Please let go of me, and may God bless you all.”

Within 20 minutes after the first torpedo hit, the USS Oklahoma rolled over and settled into the mud in the harbor. There were 448 crew members who died with the ship.

It is believed that Father Schmitt was buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) in Hawai’i, in a grave with about 400 other unidentified bodies recovered from the Oklahoma. His name is engraved there in the Courts of the Missing.

On Oct. 23, 1942, the Navy posthumously honored Chaplain Schmitt with a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for “distinguished heroism and sublime devotion to his fellow man.”

“His magnanimous courage and self sacrifice were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service,” the citation said. “He gallantly gave up his life for his country.”

Both chaplains are memorialized on a plaque at the USS Arizona Memorial Visitors Center. The inscription reads, “Dedicated to the glory of God and the memory of Capt. Thomas L. Kirkpatrick, CHC, USN, Chaplain, USS Arizona; Lt. Aloysius H. Schmidt, CHC, USN, Chaplain, USS Oklahoma; who gave their lives in the service of their country, 7 December 1941.”

Kirkpatrick was also memorialized with the dedication of the destroyer escort USS Kirkpatrick, which was launched by his widow on June 5, 1943, and which remained in service until 1960.

A destroyer named USS Schmitt was commissioned in 1943 by the Navy in Chaplain Schmitt’s honor and served the Navy until 1967 when it was transferred to Taiwan. The Christ the King Chapel at Loras College was dedicated in his memory and contains some of Father Schmitt’s property that was donated to the school.

However, the story doesn’t end there. In 1996, Kirkpatrick’s son, Tom, donated some of his father’s personal effects that were recovered from the sunken Arizona battleship to the Arizona Memorial Museum. One of the items, a desk clock from the chaplain’ quarters, is on display and is almost intact except for the face. But it tells the time when it stopped – 8:04:35.

The latest honor was bestowed on Chaplain Kirkpatrick and Chaplain Schmitt when streets were dedicated in memory of their sacrifices at ceremonies held July 6, 2005 at McGrew Point family housing.

The new Kirkpatrick Loop, located at Radford Terrace, pays tribute to Chaplain Capt. Thomas Leroy Kirkpatrick. Schmitt Parkway, also at Radford Terrace, was named in honor of Chaplain Lt. j.g. Aloysius H. Schmitt.

The newly-named streets serve as a reminder – to those who live there or drive through the community – of the courage and self-sacrifice of the two Navy chaplains who gave their lives to their country on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
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(Some information provided by Navy Chaplain Corps and Naval Historical Center. Article by Karen Spangler used with permission of Navy Region Hawaii Newstand.)

Fr. Francis L. Sampson, Chaplain WWII, Korean, Vietnam

  It was at Harvard University, strangely enough, that he really began his odyssey; for it was at Harvard that new Army chaplains  received their initial entry training into the U.S. Army chaplaincy during most of World War II.  After finishing the month-long course, Chaplain Sampson volunteered for an airborne assignment.  It was a decision that would define the rest of his life. 

 It was also a decision, he wrote later, that was made out of ignorance.  “Like a zealous young business man, starting out in a strange town,” he admitted, ” I was ready to join anything out of a sheer sense of civic duty.”1   Had he known previously what being a paratroop chaplain entailed, he confessed, he would have made a different choice.

 

Frankly, I did not know when I signed up for the airborne that chaplains would be expected to jump from an airplane in flight.  Had I known this beforehand, and particularly had I known the tortures of mind and body prepared at Fort Benning for those who sought the coveted parachute wings, I am positive that I should have turned a deaf ear to the plea for airborne chaplains.  However, once having signed up, I was too proud to back out.  Besides, the airborne are the elite troops of  the Army, and I already began to enjoy the prestige and glamour that goes with belonging to such an outfit.2

Francis L. Sampson was born on 29 February 1912, in Cherokee, Iowa.  He attended Notre Dame University, graduating in 1937, and then entered St. Paul’s Seminary at Saint Paul, Minnesota.  He was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood for the Des Moines, Iowa, diocese on 1 June 1941.  Following his ordination, Father Sampson served briefly as a parish priest in Neola, Iowa, and also taught at Dowling High School in Des Moines.  He entered the Army in early 1942, was commissioned as a first Lieutenant, and began his Army career at Camp Barkley, Texas.  The month of January 1943, was spent in training at the Chaplain School.  He then joined the 501st  Parachute Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division, as its regimental chaplain.  He would be its chaplain for the rest of the war.3

It was during the invasion of France, in the summer of 1944, that the story of Chaplain Sampson began to take on its legendary quality.  Lawrence Critchell, in his book Four Stars of Hell, described him as “one of the most respected and best-loved officers in the Regiment,” while S.L.A. Marshall in Night Drop, portrays Sampson as “a jolly man, deeply loved by the Regiment.”  His exploits were recorded by John Eisenhower in The Bitter Woods, and also by John Toland in Battle and The Last Hundred Days.4

It all began on D-Day, 6 June 1944.  While the soldiers of the 501st may have looked at their chaplain as a cool and heroic figure, Chaplain Sampson remembered that in those initial days among the hedgerows of Normandy,  “[n]o pair of knees shook more than my own, nor any heart ever beat faster in time of danger.”5

  The medics stayed with the wounded who could not be moved, and so did Chaplain Sampson.  At one point the area was taken over by units of the Waffen SS.  Chaplain Sampson was taken prisoner by two soldiers, and put up against a wall to be shot.  He recalled that he was so frightened that instead of reciting an Act of Contrition, the usual prayer for the forgiveness of sins, he kept repeating to himself  the Catholic blessing before meals: “Bless us, Our Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive through Thy bounty through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”  Rescued at the last minute by a German noncommissioned officer who turned out to be a Catholic, Chaplain Sampson was escorted to a nearby German intelligence post where he was interrogated, found harmless and then released.

Chaplain (CPT) Sampson of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment sits astride a captured German motorcycle given him by one of the troopers.  Sampson used this method of transportation to get around to his men in the battle areas of Holland.  (Sept. 1944)He returned to the aid station, and after experiencing a number of close calls, Sampson and the aid station were liberated by American troops. At this point Sampson found himself ministering not only to wounded U.S. soldiers, but also to German troops who had been brought to the station.  Chaplain Sampson was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest American military award, for his actions during these days.6

Chaplain Sampson went with his regiment as it jumped into Holland, where he was nearly captured for a second time.  By early December 1944, the 101st was taking a well-deserved rest from the fighting in a small French town just outside of Paris.  The rest was to be brief, for the surprise assault by German forces through the Ardennes that month began what was to be called the Battle of the Bulge. 

General Eisenhower ordered both the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions to the front.  Their destination was a small village near Bastogne.  In the confusion of the fighting, Sampson was taken prisoner on 19 December.  This time there would be no quick resolution to his predicament.  He was sealed in a train for six days without food or water, and the train was also attacked at intervals by American aircraft.  Imprisoned in Stalag II A, which was located north of Berlin near the city of Neubrandenburg, Chaplain Sampson at his request was allowed to remain in the enlisted men’s prison, rather than the officer’s prison. 

At midnight on 28 April 1945, Russian tanks belonging to the forces of Marshall Konstantin Rokossovsky’s Second Belorussian Front freed the camp, ending Sampson’s four months of bitter winter imprisonment.7

The following years saw him serve a number of important posts.  He was regimental chaplain with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment, from 1947 to 1951.8   While chaplain with the 187th, Sampson found himself part of a massive airborne drop in Korea, near Sukch’on and Such’on, north of the North Korean capital of P’yongyang.  General MacArthur hoped that this force could rescue American prisoners of war who it was assumed would be moved northward in the Communist retreat, while also cutting off North Korean officials and troops.9

Sent home to the United States in 1951, Sampson served as an instructor at the U.S. Army Chaplain School at Fort Slocum, New York, until 1954.  He then served as the 11th Airborne Division chaplain, between 1955 and 1958.  More important assignments followed as he rose up the ladder in the chaplaincy.

Promoted to full colonel in 1961, he served as Seventh Army Chaplain from 1962 to 1965, and then as the USCONARC Staff Chaplain in 1965.  The next year he was appointed as the Deputy Chief of Chaplains of the United States Army and promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.10

Chaplain Sampson now found himself in a role far removed from his previous experience as a field chaplain.  He was now at the center of power and responsibility, in the midst of an increasingly controversial and unpopular war in Vietnam.  With the retirement of Chaplain (MG) Charles E. Brown as Chief of Chaplains in July 1967, Sampson succeeded him in that office.  Now 55 years old and a veteran of 25 years of Army experience, Sampson was a popular choice.11

The appointment of Francis L. Sampson … may have appeared to some as a public-relations’ attempt to rescue the image of the chaplaincy.  Sampson was, after all, a highly-decorated airborne hero of both World War II and the Korean conflict.  He wore the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in Europe and his exploits had been featured in three national television programs.  Besides that, he had authored two books, numerous articles for periodicals, and was an outstanding athlete who had won seven Army regional tennis championships during his career.12

His service as Chief of Chaplains from 1967 to 1971, “was characterized by a genuinely personal esteem for the chaplain’s calling and a deep respect for the soldier’s profession.”13  His tenure as Chief, in the midst of these trying times, was filled with solid accomplishments. His management style was an open one.

To insure that his decisions and guidance were based on the real issues being encountered by chaplains, he maintained a continuing open dialogue with officers and enlisted men alike at every echelon through a vigorous schedule of personal staff visits to every major army command throughout the world.  As a result of these person-to-person observations, he maintained a realistic awareness of Army-wide activities and provided a continuing professional appraisal for the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, the Chief of Staff, and other interested members of the Department of the Army Staff.14

But this was a far different war than World War II, and Chaplain Sampson found himself dealing with such Army-wide problems as drug abuse, racial tension, and changing life styles.  As Chief of Chaplains, he gave a speech in 1970, in which he said that he was “proud  of the soldiers of today — frankly, they are even better soldiers in most ways than their dads were.  But just as 1775 and 1941-45  were times ‘that tried men’s souls,’ so too we move into 1971 with the sobering awareness that never before in our history have we faced a more critical phase in our national existence.”15

A few months before his retirement as Chief of Chaplains on 31 July 1971, Chaplain Sampson gave a speech, part of which captures the philosophy he operated under both as a field chaplain and as Chief of Chaplains.

In civilian life many people misunderstand the military mission.  I have spoken at various universities and have been challenged by this misunderstanding.  I have been asked how I can wear the uniform which symbolizes war and also wear the cross upon it symbolizing peace.  One would think that they should find the answer to the very question they proposed — for such questioners are of lofty academic standards, positions and responsibilities.

It is very easy for me to tell them that, by law and statute, the mission of the military of the United States is, first, to preserve peace. Second, to provide for the security of our country, its borders and internal security.  And third, to implement national policy as it pertains to peace treaties with friendly nations which of themselves cannot repel the aggression of avaricious neighbors.

I see nothing in this mission that does not appeal to the highest ideals of any man — regardless of his religion.  Indeed, it was Cardinal O’Neal, the great Churchman, who once said if he had not been a priest he most certainly would have had to be a soldier, because they are both called to the identical things — that is — the preservation of peace, the establishment of justice when it has been lost, and the providing of security with protection for the weak and the innocent.16

His words are a fitting testimonial to a memorable thirty-year career as both soldier and chaplain.


ENDNOTES

1 Francis L. Sampson, Look Out Below: A Story of the Airborne by a Paratrooper Padre, Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1958, p. 3.
2 Ibid.
3  Francis L. Sampson Biographical File, USACHCS Archives, Fort Jackson, SC.
4 Ibid.
5 As quoted in, Donald F. Crosby, Jr., Battlefield Chaplains: Catholic Priests in World War II, Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1994, 122.
6 Sampson, op. cit., 55-80.
7 Ibid., 98-108; 111-165.
8 Sampson Biographical File.
9 Roger R. Venzke, Confidence In Battle, Inspiration In Peace: The United States Army Chaplaincy, 1945-1975, Washington, DC: Department of the Army, Office of the Chief of Chaplains, 1977, pp. 80-81.
10 Sampson Biographical File.
11 Ibid.
12 Ventzke, op cit. p.128.
13 Sampson Biographical File.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid.
16 Ventzke, loc. cit. (quoted in).


Photos courtesy of the Army Chaplain Museum and the Chief of Chaplains’ Office.

William J. Hourihan, Ph.D. serves as the Army Chaplain Branch historian.  He is located at the U. S. Army Chaplain Center and School, Fort Jackson, S.C.

Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun, USA, Korean War

 His pipe was Fr. Kapaun’s inseparable companion, even in the thick of battle. A minor casualty occurred when the bullet of a North Korean sniper demolished the stem of his favorite briar.  He quit smoking only long enough to whittle another stem from bamboo.  In another battle, his pipe was again knocked out of his mouth. One International News photo showed a smiling Kapaun holding his broken pipe.

 Sometime in October 1950, Father Kapaun took the wheel of a Jeep loaded with wounded men when the driver was killed and drove the patients over fire-swept roads to safety. He acted as if this was all in a day’s work; to the men he became a legend.  In the heat of battle, he continued saying Mass, ministering to the wounded, and, when there was spare time, burying the dead enemies and assisting with the graves registration of his own men.  

During the Red attack on November 1 near Unsan, Father Kapaun went back to the fighting to assist Dr. Clarence Anderson and was captured along with the twelve hundred other men. The priest and doctor had both elected to stay with the wounded, though they knew that capture meant certain death. The weather was cold, but the last word from escaping prisoners was that the chaplain had continued to minister to the sick and wounded in spite of badly frostbitten feet

Father Kapaun, right, and
Captain Dolan, left,
carry an exhausted soldier.

A lieutenant captured within days of Father Kapaun testified that the priest carried a wounded soldier on a stretcher for the entire 10 miles to a small Korean farmhouse near Pyoktong. The officers were put in thefarmhouse and forbidden to see the men, but Father Kapaun would get out and sneak down to the sick and wounded first, and then visit and pray with the men. He continuously volunteered for the burial details.

The same officer relates that the men were nearly starving, so Father would go on a ration run to get cracked corn, millet, and soy beans.  Before he went, he said prayers to Stain Dismas, the Good Thief. The lieutenant was confident Father Kapaun’s prayers were answered because “he would steal, or get away with, sometimes two one-hundred-pound sacks of grain plus pockets full of salt which was very scarce. Pretty soon all of us were praying earnestly to Saint Dismas, but Father succeeded much better than the rest of us.

Every night we held prayers and he prayed, not only for deliverance of us from the hands of the enemy, but also prayed for the Communists to be delivered from their atheistic materialism.”

                ….. In indoctrination sessions as the Chinese yelled and screamed, Father Kapaun softly and calmly refuted their statements. When they taunted him that he could not see or hear or feel God and that thus, God did not exist, Chaplain Kapaun quietly pointed out that Mao Tse-Tung could not make a tree or a flower or stop the thunder and lightening. He also told them that his God was as real as the air they breathed but could not see, as the thoughts and ideas they had, but could not see or feel.  After a while, they let him alone, since they were afraid of his arguments.

At Easter in April 1951, the men noticed that their “Padre” was limping badly.  The two doctors cornered him and found that he had a blood clot in his leg and that it was badly swollen. They forced him to lie on the floor and put his leg in a makeshift suspension, forcing him to lie that way for over a month.  His only complaint was that he thought he was a burden to the others. About May 19, the pain in Father’s leg became unbearable.

An officer who was with Father Kapaun shortly before the priest was taken to the “hospital” where he died relates, “In his last hour, he heard my confession and told me to dedicate my life to the Blessed Virgin Mary, that she would intercede for me to Jesus, her Son.  He told all of us the story of the Seven Maccabees. A mother has seven children, all of whom refused to repudiate God to the king.  One by one they were killed. She cried, not tears of pain and privation, but tears of joy. Her children were with God. As he told us this, his own eyes were filled with tears of agony, I knew and he knew I knew!  Father Kapaun said, ‘As you see, I am crying too, not tears of pain but tears of joy, because I’ll be with my God in a short time.”

When the Chinese came to take Father Kapaun to the hospital, his fellow officers protested but to no avail.  The hospital was a place where they took people to die; only about five officers out of sixty had ever come back from there. The Chinese saw a good chance to get the man they feared, now that he was helpless.  Father knew, as soon as he saw the stretcher, where he was going.

 As Father Kapaun was raised on the stretcher, he told one of the men, “Walt, if I don’t’ come back, tell my Bishop I died a happy death.”

Father Kapaun is the most decorated military chaplain in United States history. Perhaps higher honor awaits this humble chaplain. In June 1993, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, began an investigation which may lead to a cause for canonization.
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CatholicMil thanks author Ann Ball for permission to use excerpts from her book, “Faces of Holiness”. Visit Ann’s website at: www.annball.com. To report favors received through the intercession of Emil Kapaun, contact:  The Father Kapaun Guild, Catholic Diocese of Wichita, 424 North Broadway, Wichita, Kansas 67202

Terence Cardinal Cooke, USA, Former Military Vicar of U.S. Armed Forces

After the death of his mother in 1930, her sister Mary Gannon, joined the family to help rear Terence and his older brother and sister. He decided to study for the priesthood upon graduation from elementary school in 1934 and enrolled in Cathederal College, minor seminary of the Archdiocese of New York.  In 1940 he entered St. Joseph’s seminary, Dunwoodie, and was ordained a priest on Dec. 1, 1945, Francis Cardinal Spellman in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

 Immediately after ordination Fr. Cooke was assigned to graduate studies in social work, first at the University of Chicago, then in the National Catholic School of Social Service at the Catholic University of America, where he obtained a master’s degree in 1949. From 1949 to 1954 he was assigned to the Youth Division of Catholic Charities; in 1954 he became procurator of St. Joseph’s Seminary where his administrative efficiency brought him to the attention of Cardinal Spellman, who selected him as his secretary in 1957.

 Thereafter he advanced from vice chancellor (1958) to chancellor (1961) to vicar general and auxiliary bishop (1965). At Spellman’s death in Dec. 1967, Cooke was the youngest of ten auxiliary bishops. His appointment as the seventh archbishop of New York on Mar. 8, 1968, was unexpected (especially to Archbishop John Maguire, the coadjutor without right of succession) and was widely attributed to Spellman’s influence.  On April 4, 1968, Cooke also succeeded Spellman as military vicar for the United States Armed Forces. He was appointed to Cardinal in April 28, 1969.

 Archbishop of New York- Cooke became archbishop of New York during a tumultuous period of civil rights demonstrations and student protests provoked by the Vietnam War.  On the day of his installation, April 4, 1968, Sr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, leading to riots in many American cities.  That evening Cooke left a reception to travel to Harlem and plead for racial peace. Cooke also had to face the unsettling aftermath of Vatican II.  Between 1967 and 1983 the number of diocesan priests declined in New York form 1, 108 to 777. The total Catholic population remained the same but that was because of large influx of Hispanic immigrants. Women religious fell from 8,955 to 5,178.  The number of infant baptisms fell from 50,000 to 31,000 per year and church weddings declined from 15,000 to 8,200 per year.

 The age of expansion had ended by the time Cooke took over. Cardinal Spellman had established forty-five parishes while Cooke had a net gain of four.  The diocese needed financial expertise and he excelled in this role.  He created the Inter-Parish Finance Commission, which levied assessment on all parishes and used income to subsidize the poor parishes. Only 31 of the 305 Catholic elementary schools were forced to close due to enrollment dropping off by about one half in the diocese.  His financial expertise greatly attributed to the maintaining of the schools.  He also appointed the first black and Hispanic auxiliary bishops in the history of the archdiocese, and in his capacity as military vicar he continued to visit military troops overseas as Spellman had done.

 Critic complained that Cooke’s financial wizardry was not matched by comparable leadership skills or long-term vision. In such areas as the Hispanic apostolate and the academic quality of the diocesan seminary, Cooke was faulted for failing to continue the innovative policies of his predecessor. He was sensitive to criticism from the secular press and tended to avoid open confrontation on controversial issues. In public he displayed a cheery smile and exuded an unquenchable optimism. With the clergy he was affable but a stickler for ecclesial propriety. He had a native ability to deflect a discussion of substantive issues into inoffensive pleasantries.  Due to his influence his diocese was spared polarization that occurred in many other diocese due to Vatican II.

In Aug. 1983 Cooke announced that he was terminally ill with cancer, a lymphoma condition for which he had been secretly receiving medical treatment for the previous eight years.  During the following six weeks, his faith and courage made a deep impression on many New Yorkers. After his death on Oct. 6, 1983, huge crowds filed past his bier in St. Patrick’s Cathedral and over 900 priests attended his funeral.  He was buried under the main altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. His cause for canonization has been opened and Fr. Benedict Groeschel, is the postulator for the cause.
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Reprinted with permission from American Saints website.  For more information, visit The Cardinal Cooke Guild at www.terencecardinalcooke.org.

Fr. Walter Ciszek USA, World War II, Released POW

Russian Mission- In 1929, the novices were told of a letter of Pius XI calling upon Jesuits to prepare for missionary work in Russia. Shortly after taking vows (Sept. 1930), Ciszek wrote to the Jesuit general volunteering for the mission. He was accepted but was told to continue studies.  He studied philosophy at Woodstock College in Maryland and sailed for Europe during the summer of 1934.  That fall he began to study at Rome’s Gregorian University and pursued studies at the Russicum.  He was ordained in Rome in June 24, 1937.

 Since it was imprudent to send missionaries into Russia at this time, he was sent to Russian Catholics in Albertyn, Poland.  He arrived Nov. 1938. On Sept. 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and on Oct. 17, Russia occupied Alberytn. He decided to penetrate further in Russia to better minister the spiritual needs of the Catholics. Under the name Vladamir Lypinski, a widower, without family, he signed on with a lumber company to work in the Urals and left Lvov on Mar. 19, 1940.  After a two-week trip in boxcars, he and his fellow workers arrived at the Chusovoy lumber camps.

Prisoner- On June 22, 1941, Germany invaded Russia and in the early morning Ciszek was arrested as a German spy and sent to prison in Perm.  During his first interrogation he learned that the Russians had known his true identity and that he had been a priest.  Subsequently, he was transferred to Moscow’s Lubyanka Prison.  Interrogations were frequent but he always responded in the same way: his reason for being in Russia was spiritual and not political. On July 26, 1942, he was convicted as a “Vatican spy” and sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor.  He remained in confinement in Lubyanka and, though the war had ended in May 1945, he was detained until June 1946 when he was taken to Siberia to begin his sentence of hard labor.

 After 6 mo. at Krasnoyarsk, Ciszek (Dec. 1946) was moved to the Norilsk area, where remained until 1953. During those years he was assigned to various camps and performed a variety of jobs, such as coal miner and construction worker.  In Oct. 1953 he was sent to nearby Kayerkham mines and in April 1955 was released for serving fourteen years and nine months of his sentence.  He left the camp a free man on April 22 and made his way to Norilsk, where he found a job and resumed priestly activity.  Because his apostolic work attracted attention, the police asked him to leave the city in 1958.  He then made his way to Abakan, found a job as a auto mechanic and worked there until 1963, when he was told to go to Moscow, where an official of the American Consulate would meet him.

Freedom- Ciszek arrived in New York City on Oct. 12, 1963, and joined the John XXIII Center for Eastern Christian Studies at Fordham University.  He spent the remaining years of his life giving conferences and retreats.  His book, With God in Russia. related his life under the Soviets and his book, He Leadeth Me,tells of the faith that had sustained him during those years. He died Dec. 8, 1984; his cause for beatification is under consideration.
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Courtesy of http://www.americansaints.homestead.com/.  For more information on Fr. Ciszek and his cause for beatification, visit http://www.cecs.uofs.edu/wcpl2.html

Fr. Joseph Jarzebowski, Poland, World War II, Messenger of Divine Mercy

Ordained on September 30, 1923, he spent the next 14 years in pastoral and youth ministry at Bielany House. It was while Fr. Joseph worked in Lithuania from 1939 to 1941 that he met Fr. Michael Sopocko and first heard the story of the Divine Mercy Apostolate.

As World War II engulfed Poland with full force, Fr. Jarzebowski came to attribute his own survival to the miraculous power of that devotion. Hunted by Nazi death squads, he escaped from Poland and came to America via Siberia and Japan. He arrived in Washington, D.C., on May 24, 1941, and remained in the USA for two years, working with the Marian communities and promoting the Divine Mercy devotion.

Next, he worked among Polish exiles in Mexico and then in England where he organized schools and cultural programs in Hereford and Fawley Court. He was only 66 years old when he died in 1964. Fr. Joseph’s body was laid to rest in the Marian Cemetery at Fawley Court. He is remembered today in a special way as the man who exported the Divine Mercy Devotion from Poland to the rest of the world.

We encourage you to seek the intercession of Fr. Joseph for your needs. If your prayers, through his intercession, are answered, please contact the Postulator General for the Marian Causes of Canonization.
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Used with permission Marians of the Immaculate Conception: www.marians.org

[Mission Capodanno Note: Divine Mercy is the devotion revealed by Our Lord to Saint Faustina Kowalska in 1931. Ten years later, this devotion was brought to our nation’s capital as Fr. Joseph fled Nazi persecution. Divine Mercy Sunday is designated as the first Sunday after Easter. Materials on this devotion are included in the Catholic Care Packages, offered free to military personnel and members of their immediate families.]

Chaplain Charles J. Watters, Viet Nam Army Chaplain MOH Recipient

Chaplain Charles J. Watters, Vietnam MOH recipient

During the early days of Vietnam, so many Army chaplains were volunteering for duty in Vietnam that the Office of the Chief of Chaplains had to disapprove some of the applications.

 The chaplain’s ministry in Vietnam has been described clearly by Chaplain John H. Herrlinger of the Lutheran Church in America. He said “Our altar is the front of a jeep, our pews Vietnamese soil and our roof the burning Oriental sky. Men grow up in a minute over here.”

 Sam Castan, Far East senior editor for Look magazine, once followed Chaplain Thomas J. Confroy on his rounds with the 1st Infantry Division.

 He wrote, “He never pressures anyone into coming to this church [a clearing in the jungle], he never asks why the buddy who came last time has not returned. His sermons are brief and often mention the value of suffering as a means to understanding what Christ Himself endured. He never speaks of the nearness of death- everyone here knows it full well. The hardest part of Father Confroy’s work comes after Mass, as he awaits at the aid station for those who have received Holy Communion, struck into the jungle, and will be soon returning for Extreme Unction, the Last Rites of his Church.”

 In the history of the Chaplains Corps, there have been three that have received the Medal of Honor. One of the awardees is Chaplain Charles J. Watters.

 Watters was a 40 year old native of Jersey City, New Jersey.  He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1953. He served parishes in his hometown, as well as in Rutherford, Paramus, and Cranford, New Jersey. In 1962, he became a chaplain in the Air National Guard.

 In 1964, he entered active duty as an Army chaplain. In July 1967 he completed a 12-month tour in Vietnam.

 He volunteered for a six-month extension of duty in Vietnam.  At the time he was assigned to the 173rd Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade. On November 19, 1967, he was moving with one of the companies in his battalion. The unit was heading toward Dak To on an assault.

 An intense battle erupted.  Watters ran to the front to assist the wounded and administer prayers for the dying.  While at the front, he saw a wounded soldier standing in the field of fire. The soldier was in shock.  Watters rant to the man, lifted the man onto his shoulders, and carried the man to safety.

 As his unit pushed forward, Watters continued his ministry at the front, caring for another wounded man.  The unit was forced to pull back. The chaplain was caught between lines while recovering two more wounded soldiers.

 Watters pulled the two to safety as his unit was forced to pull back and establish a new perimeter. Against the discouragement of his fellow soldiers, Watters again ran out of the perimeter three more times to recover wounded men.

 During the battle, Watters distributed food and water to those who were fighting. He assisted the medics in caring for the wounded.  However, Watters was killed when he took a direct hit from a mortar round.

 His charred, mangled chaplain’s kit is on display at the Chaplains School, Fort Jackson, SC. For his “conspicuous gallantry….. unyielding perseverance and selfless devotion to his comrades,” Chaplain Watters was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on November 4, 1969.

 Chaplains practice a “ministry of presence.” Chaplains go wherever soldiers go, offering a listening ear, an encouraging word, a message from God, or a cup of cold water.

 One battalion commander once told me, “Chaplain, your job is to be wherever the soldiers are the most miserable.” That, in a nutshell, is the mission of the chaplain. You can count on your chaplain.

(Courtesy of The Fort Huachuca Scout, August 10, 2000)

Fr. John P. Washington, One of the Four Chaplains

By May of ’42, Fr. Washington went on active duty and served at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana as Chief of Chaplains Reserve Pool. He was subsequently assigned to the 76th Infantry Division of Fort George Meade, MD and Camp Myles Standish in Taunton, Massachusetts.  He and the other three chaplains, Fox, Goode and Poling, met at Harvard’s School for Chaplains. All “Four Chaplains” were sent to board the USAT Dorchester. 

In 1943, the ship headed for Greenland. Before reaching its destination, the ship was attacked by a German U-223 submarine on February 3, 1943 and sank in 27 minutes. When the supply of lifejackets ran out, all “Four Chaplains” selflessly gave their life jackets to others in order that others might live.  203 of the 902 members of the ship survived.

Survivor Private William B. Bednar vividly recounts: “I could hear men crying, pleading, praying. I could also hear the chaplains preaching courage. Their voices were the only thing that kept me going.”  “As the ship went down, survivors in nearby rafts could see the four chaplains–arms linked and braced against the slanting deck. Their voices could also be heard offering prayers.” 

On December 19, 1944, Fr. Washington was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart, and a Special Medal for Heroism, similar to a Medal of Honor, authorized by Congress and awarded January18, 1961.

(For more information on The Four Chaplains, http://www.fourchaplains.org/)

–Team Capodanno

Capt. Humbert Rocky Versace, Vietnam POW & MOH Recipient

Fellow graduates of West Point Class of 1959, friends from Alexandria’s George Washington High School – “The Friends of Rocky” – and old neighbors from Del Ray and St. Rita’s Parish lobbied for the medal for Versace – the first Army POW so honored.

This past Monday, President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Honor to Versace’s brother Stephen. Bush praised Capt. Versace’s defiance of his Viet Cong captors during almost two years of captivity, which ended with his execution in 1965.

What kind of man was Rocky Versace to inspire so many people for so long?

Versace’s own mother Tere Ríos Versace, a Catholic author, wrote to earn money so she could travel to Vietnam and go from village to village in search of her son, said family friend Augustine Bresnahan.

Rocky’s father, Col. Humbert Versace, died within a few year’s of his son.

Tere Versace was a woman of great faith who never gave up hope, Bresnahan said. When news of Rocky’s death came, there was a funeral at St. Rita Church in Alexandria and a trip to Arlington National Cemetery, where a stone marker was placed over an empty grave. Capt. Versace’s body was never recovered. Bresnahan said she never saw Tere Versace cry.

Bresnahan has no doubt that it was Rocky’s mother’s great faith that inspired his plans to become a missionary priest. He had been accepted as a candidate by Maryknoll Missioners before his death. He had hoped to one day work with orphaned Vietnamese children.

It was a 1971 book, Five Years to Freedom, by fellow POW, the late Col. James “Nick” Rowe, that inspired many others to see that Versace was not forgotten. Rowe vowed to remember his comrade, who he described as, “the greatest example of what an officer should be.”

Rowe told the West Point Class of 1969, “Captain Versace…a man to whom, I know, the words Duty, Honor, Country meant more than words. Rocky lived this code. [The Viet Cong] couldn’t even bend him; they couldn’t break him. As a result they executed him … He died for his actions, but he is a man who I believe will be remembered and I am going to see that he is remembered.”

During his second tour of duty in Vietnam, on Oct. 29, 1963, Versace and two fellow advisers to the South Vietnamese were captured by the Viet Cong at Hiep Hoa. As described by Rowe, Versace persistently rebuffed any propaganda attempts or torture by his Viet Cong captors. He repeatedly tried to escape, resulting in imprisonment in a bamboo cage. Ultimately, North Vietnamese “Liberation Radio” announced on Sept. 26, 1965, Capt. Versace had been executed in retribution for three Viet Cong killed in Da Nang.

In 1999, The Friends of Rocky Versace attempted to have an elementary school in the Cameron Station area of Alexandria named after Versace. When the plan was defeated, they turned their efforts to a memorial, raising $25,000 along the way.

Alexandria City Councilman David Speck says he was struck by the “sincerity and passion of the friends.”

“We began to listen and what an incredible story it was,” Speck said. What the City Council learned was that a significant number of Alexandrians died in Vietnam. Seeing the memorial built became “very important to the whole community,” Speck said.

The efforts of The Friends of Rocky culminated in the dedication last Saturday of the Rocky Versace Plaza and Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the Mt. Vernon Recreation Center at 2601 Commonwealth Ave. in the Del Ray section of Alexandria, not far from where the Versace family once lived.

Life-size statues of Versace and two Vietnamese children stand at the recreation center entrance. A low, curving wall inscribed with the names of 65 Alexandrians who died in Vietnam encircles the statues. American and POW flags fly nearby.

Two days after the dedication, a young girl walked tentatively around the new statues. Her mother explained to her younger brother and her that this was a young man who had died long ago in Vietnam. A group of little boys ran over from their basketball game and hugged the bronze figures.

Sadly, Tere Versace is no longer alive to see the memorial or the awarding of the Medal of Honor. “She finally found him,” Bresnahan said. “The Lord brought them together. She would have been very happy to see Rocky honored,” Bresnahan added. 
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Local Vietnam War Hero Receives Medal of Honor, Courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald, 7/11/02.