A Dominican and a Navy Chaplain

November 23, 2011

“If the military doesn’t have enough Catholic priests to serve as Chaplains, soldiers could go six months without Mass and the sacraments.” More than twenty years ago, Father Joseph Scordo, O.P., read this quote on a brochure he received in the mail. Those words inspired Father Scordo, who recalled his twenty years of service as a Chaplin in the U.S. Navy to the Student Brothers at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. this past Friday. In his own words: “It got me thinking; it got me praying.” The military needs Catholic Chaplains. “If you’re looking to work hard, join the Navy,” a fellow priest told him. And work hard he did.  His day began at 6am and went non-stop until 1am on most days.  He was busy with the Lord’s work: hearing Confessions, saying Mass, anointing the sick and the dying, teaching inquiry classes, and listening to all who sought his counsel. In addition to this hard work, however, Fr. Scordo soon realized how important it was to keep up a life of prayer and study in the midst of his official duties. Reality hit hard in war. With bullets flying past the helo that scurried him to render service to troops on the ground, he laughed at his first thought: to take off his bullet-proof vest and sit on it – to block the anti-aircraft fire from below. Fr. Scordo recounted that he learned what true courage meant when he was deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11: “It’s not about being afraid or not,” he said, “it’s doing what you know you need to do despite being afraid.” Listening to Father Scordo one thinks of Saint Dominic himself who was known for his joyful countenance and his constant desire to be a missionary. Whether he knew it or not, Fr. Scordo received both graces at the moment of his Profession – to be a joyful and happy preacher of grace to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the courage to serve those far away from home. Fr. Joseph Scordo’s faithful service continues today at the Dominican parish of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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