WASHINGTON, DC – Wednesday marked the 100th birthday of Mr. Fouad Simon John of Uniontown, PA, a Maronite Catholic who served as a U.S. Army medic in World War II from 1941 to 1945, and he is still around to celebrate with his family. It is precisely for Mr. John and all others who have served our nation in uniform, living and deceased, that the 24th annual Memorial Mass will be celebrated on Pentecost Sunday, May 20, in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Avenue Northeast in Washington, D.C. The Memorial Mass begins at 4:30 p.m. (EDST) and is open to the public.
“I’ll never forget the date,” Mr. John says, “the day I went in the army or the day I came out.” He was born in Uniontown to Lebanese immigrants on May 16, 1918. He was drafted out of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, on September 19, 1941, and fought in the Pacific, serving on the front lines in the Gilbert, Marshall, and Ryukyu Islands. He earned three Bronze Stars, a Good Conduct Medal, and a number of other decorations before his honorable discharge on Oct. 5, 1945. When asked how he has lived so long, Mr. John responds, “levity.” His granddaughter, Ms. Natalie J. Plumb, Digital and Social Media Coordinator for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, VA, says he “doesn’t take himself too seriously and loves to laugh.” Plus, he prays the Holy Rosary regularly and sticks, more or less, to the Mediterranean diet that he was raised on. This week, his five children, dozens of grandchildren, including Ms. Plumb, and great-grandchildren, innumerable cousins, neighbors, and friends will join him in Uniontown, where he raised his family with his late wife, Mrs. Sophia John, to celebrate his birthday on a feast of Lebanese food prepared by parishioners at St. George Maronite Catholic Church.
In Washington, meanwhile, the staff and clergy of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), are making final preparations for the Memorial Mass, arranging assigned seating for those who requested it, creating pew labels, and laying other groundwork. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, will return from Lourdes, France, where he is currently on pilgrimage with American wounded warriors after paying a pastoral visit to the faithful in England, to be the principal celebrant and homilist. Joining Archbishop Broglio at the altar will be dozens of Catholic U.S. Military chaplains and priests, as well as, deacons in service to the AMS. Confessions will be heard from 3:00 p.m. until 3:45 p.m. followed by a praying of the Holy Rosary at 3:45 p.m. and a musical prelude at 4:15 p.m., all leading up to the 4:30 p.m. opening procession. For those who, like Mr. Fouad Simon John and his family, won’t be able to attend the Mass in person, there will still be an opportunity to participate. EWTN will video-record the Mass and broadcast it on Memorial Day, May 28, beginning at 11:30 a.m. (EDST). Anyone with intentions to be remembered at the altar may submit them by noon on May 18 to www.milarch.org/intentions.