WASHINGTON, D.C. – His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, will be the principal celebrant and homilist at a Mass this weekend to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the heroic deaths of the “Four Chaplains” killed aboard the U.S. Army transport ship USAT Dorchester in the North Atlantic Ocean during World War Two. The Mass will be celebrated at noon (EST) on Feb. 4 at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, 676 Kearny Avenue, in Kearny, New Jersey, where one of the chaplains, Father John P. Washington, served from 1937 to 1942.
The four chaplains famously sacrificed their lives so that their shipmates could survive a Feb. 3, 1943 German submarine torpedo attack on the Dorchester. Father Lt. John P. Washington, a Catholic priest, Rabbi Lt. Alexander D. Goode, a Jewish rabbi, Rev. Lt. Clark V. Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister, and Rev. Lt. George L. Fox, a Methodist minister, were all aboard the Dorchester, carrying one-thousand tons of cargo and 902 servicemen, merchant seamen and civilian workers as part of a convoy on its way to a U.S. military base in Greenland when the torpedo struck its starboard side, killing or wounding many of the passengers.
As the Dorchester began to take on water, panic spread upon realization that life jackets and lifeboats were in short supply. The four chaplains gave up their life jackets and went down with the ship, leaving 230 survivors. Their sacrifice stands in history as an inspirational act of valor living out the notion of service to others, regardless of the price. For the three Christian chaplains, at least, it was surely their application of Christ’s commandment to “love one another as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13.) It is also remembered as an utmost demonstration of interfaith compassion and solidarity.
In his homily five years ago at the 70th anniversary Mass for the Four Chaplains, Archbishop Broglio observed: “Father John P. Washington and his companions did not wake up on Feb. 3, 1943, and decide that they were going to be heroes. They were men for others with the courage of their convictions long before that day dawned.”