USS Theodore Roosevelt Chaplains Plan for Safe Religious Worship Following COVID-19 Outbreak Father Mark C. Bristol, CHC, LT, USN, and fellow chaplains improvise spiritual care for Sailors after more than 1,100 test positive, one dies

Father Mark C. Bristol, CHC, LT, USN, aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) at Guam on May 6, 2020, inside the ship’s chapel with a statuette of Santa Marian Kamalen, patron of Guam.

GUAM – U.S. Navy chaplains aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), ported in Guam since late March, are working with the ship’s Commanding Officer Captain Carlos Sardiello to develop new guidelines and procedures for conducting safe religious services on board following the outbreak of COVID-19.

Last week, hundreds of Sailors started re-boarding after nearly 85 percent of the crew was evacuated, and many spent more than a month in isolation or quarantine. More than eleven-hundred crew members have tested positive, and one has died.

Among chaplains assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Father Mark C. Bristol, CHC, LT, USN, serves with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS). In response to an inquiry from the AMS Office of Public Affairs and Media Relations last week, Father Bristol sent the following message on Thursday, April 30:

“I am one of four chaplains aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the only Roman Catholic Priest. Since our arrival on March 27th in Guam, I have been actively engaged in providing spiritual care to the thousands of Sailors assigned to the ship.

“Over the past few weeks, due to the fact that the majority of the crew were not aboard the ship due to COVID-19, I had to find creative new ways to provide spiritual care to the crew. For the first time, I used Facebook to livestream the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Hundreds of Sailors participated in the livestream, uniting themselves in prayer to God, for themselves and their families back home.

“In addition to livestreaming Masses, my chaplain colleagues and I produced videos of inspirational talks for those in quarantine. Every evening a chaplain posts the Evening Prayer on the ship’s Facebook page. Evening prayer is a longstanding Navy Tradition for ships at sea. In these trying times it has been prayer that continues to inspire the Sailors of the Theodore Roosevelt to continue the fight.

“I am in good health, and have tested negative for the virus. My fellow chaplains and I are currently working with the commanding officer to develop guidelines and procedures to conduct religious services safely, minimizing the potential spread of the virus.”

Father Bristol is a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, NY. He was commissioned in May of last year and went on active duty as a chaplain assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt on July 1. Before entering seminary and being ordained a priest in 2016, Father Bristol had served in the Navy for nine years, enlisting out of high school as an Information Systems Technician.