NORFOLK, VA. – Father Christopher S. Fronk, S.J., CDR, CHC, USN, who brought volunteer pastoral service to deployed Catholics in Iraq this past Christmas, will return to Iraq for Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Father Fronk, the Command Chaplain aboard the Nimitz class aircraft supercarrierUSS George H W Bush CVN 77, requested and received orders to re-visit the war zone while his ship remains sidelined for maintenance. A Jesuitpriest from the Maryland Province who serves on active duty with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, Father Fronk heads back to Iraq from Norfolk on Palm Sunday.
Approximately 3,700 U.S. Military personnel are now deployed to Iraq, a large proportion of whom are Catholic, but at present, only one other Catholic chaplain is assigned there. So the faithful in boots are slogging it out with limited access to a priest to celebrate Mass or administer the sacraments. Thanks to Father Fronk and the Navy, that will change over the next week as Christians worldwide commemorate the Crucifixion and celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
During his Christmas visit from Dec. 19 to Jan. 3, 2015, Father Fronk made rounds to a half dozen sites in Al Anbar Province, reaching approximately 1,500 servicemen and women, celebrating seven (7) Christmas Masses, five (5) daily Masses, and hearing confessions. He told SALUTE, the magazine of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, that a couple of deployed Catholics who hadn’t been to confession in more than 20 years said “they were thinking that if God sent a priest to Iraq during the Christmas season then it must be a sign to them to get squared away with their faith lives.”
SALUTE‘s interview with Father Fronk appears in the upcoming Spring Edition.
Father Fronk said he is “very happy to be able to go over and support in this way. There is no greater satisfaction as a priest than to go where the need is greatest and where people are asking you to make the trip.” At Christmas, he found the troops “very happy to have a priest visit.” He said, “they asked if I could offer Mass each day since they didn’t know when a priest would visit again.”
As it turns out, a priest will visit again for Easter. That priest is Father Christopher S. Fronk, S.J.