Father Christopher S. Fronk, S.J., to spend Holy Season in theater
NORFOLK, VA. – Catholic servicemen and women currently deployed to Iraq will be able to attend Christmas Mass this year, thanks to the U.S. Navy and a priest chaplain who volunteered. Father Christopher S. Fronk, S.J., Command Chaplain aboard the Nimitz class aircraft supercarrier USS George H W Bush CVN 77, requested and received orders to go to the war zone for Christmas while his ship is sidelined to the shipyard for maintenance.
“Since the ship is in the yards,” Father Fronk explained, “there will not be many people at all on board for Christmas and I thought that my services as a priest could be better utilized elsewhere.” Approximately 3,500 U.S. Military personnel are now deployed to Iraq, nearly 1,000 of whom are Catholic, but at present, no Catholic chaplain is assigned there. So the faithful in boots were facing Christmas without Holy Mass or access to the sacraments. The Navy’s approval of Father Fronk’s request changed all that.
“I remember from my previous deployment to Afghanistan during Christmas,” he said, “there were not enough priests to cover all of the forward operating bases. I ended up doing 15 Christmas Masses over a three-day period. So I asked the leadership in the Chaplain Corps in October if there was a need for Catholic Chaplain support for the Marines who are currently forward deployed. The word came back in early November that the U.S. Forces in Iraq would welcome the assistance, since they were not going to have a priest for Christmas. I asked the Command of CVN 77 for the permission to go and they were very supportive.”
Father Fronk, a Jesuit priest from the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, who serves on active duty with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, left Norfolk on Thursday, Dec. 17. He will spend three weeks in Iraq, bringing pastoral care and ministry to deployed Catholics throughout the Holy Season. Chaplain Fronk said he will move about the war-torn country and “try to get to as many locations as possible during that time.”
“I am very happy to be able to go over and support in this way,” Father Fronk said. “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. I am happy to go over and support as much as I can for the three weeks I will be in theater.”