WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Sunday off the east coast of Australia, just hours after a U.S. Marine MV-22 Osprey launched from the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and crashed in the Coral Sea, killing three Marines, Father David J. Hammond, CHC, LT, USN, was in the ship’s Star of the Sea Chapel, offering Mass for the victims, the survivors, and their families. Such is the role of a Catholic U.S. Militarychaplain: to bring timely pastoral care, the presence of Christ in the sacraments, sympathy, and encouragement to those who serve, particularly during times of crisis and tragedy.
On the night of the tragedy, Father Hammond offered the following evening prayer over the USS Bonhomme Richard’s public address system at 10 p.m. when a prayer is always offered on US Navy vessels:
“Father in heaven, author of life, we have witnessed tragedy today and it has shaken us. Be with us as we hope, as we grieve, as we struggle with what we feel or what we think we should feel. The questions we ask do not have easy answers- allow us to listen and support each other as we face them. Give us the courage to be silent when we need silence, and to speak when we need to talk. Give us patience and consideration as we honor the trials and sacrifices of our brothers and sisters- in war and in peace, in death and in life. Console us Lord with the knowledge that Your mercy is eternal, and Your love is everlasting. Amen.”
In Washington, meanwhile, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, commended Father Hammond and other U.S. Military chaplains who put their lives on the line daily to serve those who serve.
Archbishop Broglio said:
“My heart goes out to the families of the Marines who mourn the loss of their loved ones, to those with them on the Osprey, and to their shipmates. I join my prayers for the repose of their souls to those of Father Hammond and I give thanks that he was on board to offer consolation and sustainment, but especially the Eucharist, which only a priest can provide.”
Currently, approximately 210 Catholic priests serve on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS). About four dozen of those priests, like Father Hammond, serve in the Navy.